Steve Partner: We are being conned over otter 'evidence'

So let me get this absolutely straight. Despite all the stories, all the deaths, all the headlines, and, above everything else, all the evidence provided by some of angling’s biggest names, the Government has decided there is, once and for all, not a problem with otters in this country.

Forget it, guys, we’ve been told. Time to move on. Old Tarka’s here and he’s staying put.

Oh, and the reason? Because of a feature that appeared in Angling Times. The one, put together by a couple of journalists, that pointed readers in the direction of the 50 river stretches to head for at the end of last season.

Apparently, according to the powers that be, because 42 of those venues support otter populations, it means there can’t be an issue to deal with.

Honestly, that’s it. That’s why nothing has, or will, be done.

Now, without wishing to decry the value of the content that appeared in these very pages (indeed, in one way it’s extremely flattering to know your words carry that much weight), it hardly seems correct that Defra ¬ the Government agency in charge of the environment and fisheries ¬ should reach a conclusion on a subject as potentially damaging on otters after reading a single feature.

Science? Nah, who needs it? Not when you can base a decision that’s costing the country’s fisheries hundreds of thousands of pounds in lost stock on a newspaper article.
Research? Why bother if you can hide behind such convenient ‘evidence’.

Fact? Unnecessary when your goal is to try to do precisely zero.

It would be laughable if it wasn’t so serious.

Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised. After all, modern politics is based on a culture of manipulation and spin, with MPs brought up to master sound over substance.
But, please. This attempt at conning us with evidence that’s so threadbare it’s naked is surely stooping to new lows.

Look, I’m not saying I don’t want otters on our rivers. And I’m certainly not saying I want a cull, either. But what I am saying is that we need ¬ and deserve ¬ a clear, objective study into the impact these creatures are having on our waterways.

That, given the amount of money we pay to pursue or hobby, cannot be too much to ask.

So why are we constantly hitting our heads against the metaphorical wall?

Easy. Because it’s far easier to sit and do nothing than it is to actually do something. Governments, agencies, organising bodies and alike are, I’m increasingly realising, intent on little more than self-preservation. Both individually, and therefore collectively, the intention seems merely to keep change at bay ¬ especially when change requires money, expertise, time and, crucially, a modicum of risk.

Otters, it seems, are probably here to stay. And when evidence as weak, flimsy and downright spurious, as this is provided as the reason, you realise that trying to do anything other than begrudgingly accept that fact is a complete waste of time.