There is a small ray of hope for fisheries affected by cormorant predation this week after one of the biggest organisations in angling took a stand against the increasing threat they pose to freshwater fish stocks.
The Angling Trust - the sport’s governing body - has called for the Minister for the Natural Environment and Fisheries, Richard Benyon, to make substantial and immediate changes to the bureaucracy surrounding the control of predatory birds, including cormorants, goosander and merganser.
Widely blamed for the decimation of fish stocks on various still and running waters around the country, cormorant numbers currently can be controlled by fisheries through shooting licences. However, excessive ‘red tape’, the ‘unreasonable application of conditions’, and the limited shooting quotas granted per fishery have made these licenses what the Trust terms ‘completely inadequate’, leaving fisheries helpless to protect their waters.
“The current stipulations to apply for a cormorant control licence are ridiculous and extremely overcomplicated,” the Angling Trust’s chief executive Mark Lloyd told AT.
“Angling clubs for example tend to be run by volunteers who just don’t have the time to apply, because providing evidence of stock damage and finding out about such things as ancient monuments in the area - a section of application required by Natural England - can take weeks. And fisheries that do manage to get a licence find that the numbers they’re allowed to shoot make no difference anyway.
“With the problem of predatory birds affecting fisheries and clubs getting steadily worse, something needs to be done, and with the Government now looking to cut red tape and help rural economies it’s the right time to act.” Secretary of King’s Lynn Angling Association, Ashley Browne, has experienced the problems cormorants can cause to fish stocks and is right behind the move. “We had big problems with cormorants last year and looked into getting a licence to control them,” he told AT.
“But after seeing the paperwork and amount of work involved, as well as the fact that you can’t shoot the birds between April and September, we didn’t bother in the end. It’s great to see that someone is finally doing something about the issue, and I fully support the Angling Trust on this.” Tony Bridgefoot, owner of Blue Bell fisheries, Northamptonshire, has had his fair share of run-ins with cormorants and also welcomes the Trust’s stance.
“It’s a move in the right direction and will hopefully give fishery managers options to protect their businesses,” he told AT. “However, there still needs to be a balance. I wouldn’t want it to go too far and see all cormorants shot on sight.
As a fishery owner you have to respect the countryside, which is why I use deterrents such as bangers to scare birds away rather than just shoot them.”