News

Angling Trust Launches Cormorant Watch 2 Web Site

Angling Trust Launches Cormorant Watch Web Site and

Calls on Minister to Act to Protect Fish

The Angling Trust has called on the government to do more to protect rivers

and lakes from fish-eating birds.

In a letter to Environment Minister George Eustice, the Angling Trust is demanding

a doubling of the number of cormorants licensed to be shot in England annually to 6,000.

It also calls for the relaxing of the requirement for evidence that goosanders are damaging

fisheries before a licence will be issued.

The Angling Trust says the new measures are needed to halt the decline in coarse and

game fish in England, particularly endangered salmon and eels which are now at

critically low levels nationally.  Other species such as roach, dace, trout and barbel have

also seen numbers fall in many rivers and lakes.

The letter coincides with the launch of Cormorant Watch 2 – a website where members

of the public can record sightings of cormorants, goosanders, red-breasted mergansers

and their roost locations.  Over 120,000 sightings of birds were recorded when the first edition

of Cormorant Watch was launched in 2012, which helped the Angling Trust make the case for

the introduction of Area-Based Licences (ABLs) for lethal control of birds, which have

reduced bureaucracy and costs for hard-pressed fishery managers and angling clubs.

Pressure from angling organisations and angling-related businesses initially saw a previous

government introduce a limit on cormorants licensed to be shot of 2,000, with a temporary

increase to 3,000. Since then, the work of the Angling Trust has led to fishery managers applying

for a far greater number of cormorant licences.

Despite this progress, angling’s representative body believes that a new annual limit of 6,000

for cormorants and a simpler process for licensing the control of goosanders to enable far more

than the 283 shot last year are both required. The low number of goosander licences issued is

despite the fact that fisheries have put in a huge amount of volunteer time and effort to provide

evidence by organised bird counts to prove to Natural England that larger numbers are needed to

protect fisheries. Natural England have rejected several strong cases for goosander licences on the

basis of insufficient evidence of need for lethal control.

The Minister promised in a letter to the Angling Trust in 2013 that he would review the upper limit

of cormorants licenced to be shot if there was evidence of demand. After two winters of licences

exceeding 3,000 birds, the Angling Trust believes that this condition has now been met.

Similar demands will be developed in Wales and Scotland based on the results of Cormorant Watch 2

over the next six months.

The Angling Trust continues to believe that the best outcome would be for cormorants to be included

on the general licence as long as the conservation status of the birds is not threatened. However,

we have not been able to persuade ministers to adopt this approach which is why we are pressing for

the best possible outcomes within the licensing framework.

The angling community invests many thousands of hours in volunteer time in using non-lethal means

to deter cormorants from their fisheries but lethal control is needed when other means have been exhausted.

 

More than one million people fish in rivers and lakes in England and Wales, and the freshwater angling industry

employs 30,000 people, generating billions for the economy each year.

Mark Lloyd, Chief Executive of the Angling Trust & Fish Legal said: “Stocks of salmon, eels

and many river coarse fish have declined dramatically in the past couple of decades and predation from

cormorants and goosanders is a key factor in the context of widespread pollution and loss of habitat.

UK anglers would like to see governments in England, Wales and Scotland protect threatened fish stocks

by allowing fishery managers greater freedom to control cormorants and goosanders, the population of

which would not be at all endangered by our sensible proposals.  We urge all anglers to record sightings

of these birds and their roosts on our easy-to-use Cormorant Watch 2 web site so that we can have the

evidence to change policy and the way it is implemented throughout the UK.”

 

Media contacts: Mark Lloyd, Chief Executive of the Angling Trust and Fish Legal, on

07973 468198 | Mark.Lloyd@anglingtrust.net

Mark Owen, Angling Trust Head of Freshwater, on 07545 733245 | Mark.Owen@anglingtrust.net

Notes:

The Cormorant Watch 2 website can be accessed here.

Read more about the Angling Trust’s cormorant campaign here.

The letter the Angling Trust sent to the Fisheries Minister can be downloaded here.

The campaign poster can be downloaded here.

The Angling Trust employs two full-time Fishery Management Advisors in England, funded by the Environment Agency from fishing licence income, to advise fisheries and angling clubs about a variety of methods to protect their fisheries. Find out more here.

Images:

(Top) – Cormorant populations have grown steadily in recent years and the damage they are causing to fish stocks is huge.

(Right Upper) – The Angling Trust is encouraging anglers to report sightings of goosanders, which cause huge damage to threatened salmon and sea trout stocks in Wales and Scotland.

(Right Middle and Lower) – Fish-eating birds can often damage fish without eating them, leaving them with serious wounds that can eventually prove fatal.