Fishery owner sues Environment Agency for £2.5million

Fishery owner sues Environment Agency for £2.5million over claims colony of OTTERS they reintroduced put him out of business by eating all his prized carp

  • Brian Dodson is seeking compensation in the landmark High Court case
  • His six lakes, near Bagnor, North Wales, have lain empty and out of use
  • Otters have flourished since being reintroduced to the wild across the UK
  • Critics say there are not enough food in waterways to sustain the numbers

By Alex Gore  PUBLISHED: 15:24, 17 January 2013 | UPDATED: 19:00, 17 January 2013

A fishery owner is suing the Environment Agency for £2.5 million over claims a colony of otters it introduced near his lakes put him out of business by eating all his fish.

Brian Dodson is accusing the government body of creating the otter haven on a nearby river and failing to inform him of the potential problems the furry mammals could cause.

After stocking six lakes at his new business with 22,000 carp at a cost of £250,000, he said the protected otters sought out his fishery as a rich food source.

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Carnivorous: Fishery owner Brian Dodson claims otters have decimated the fish at his lakes (library image)

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 Carnage: These skeletons are all that remain of carp eaten by otters at another fishery

He claims that over a period of years his valuable fish were decimated by the carnivorous creatures, ruining his business before it had got off the ground, the 60-year-old claims.

Mr Dodson said that had the Environment Agency told him of the probability of otters re-colonising the nearby river he could have taken protective steps, like putting up a protective fencing.

He is suing the agency for breaching the Environment Act 1995, claiming it had a duty of care to consult landowners when planning the otter initiative.

Mr Dodson is seeking £2.5 million to cover the loss of income he believes he would have recouped from anglers using his fishery.

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Bad for business: Mr Dodson said he is unable to sell his Waen Wen Fishery, which lies empty and out of use

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Unwelcome visitors: Mr Dodson took this picture of an otter feeding ground at his North Wales fishery

The matter will go before the High Court next month in what could become a landmark case for fishery owners across the country who have had similar issues with otters.

Since then they have returned to nearly every corner of Britain.

But critics say the scheme has been ill thought as there is not enough food in our waterways to sustain their booming numbers.

As a result otters – which have no natural predator – are said to have been picking off big and cumbersome fish from fisheries and putting them in jeopardy.

Mr Dodson’s Waen Wen Fishery, near Bangor, in North Wales, has lain empty and out of use for several years now.

He has been unable to sell it and it has now been taken off him by his mortage company.

He said: ‘This has ruined me financially and left me devastated. I built a fishery from scratch, there was nothing there at all before.

‘I got all of the planning permission and it took me a few years to dig out the six lakes and filled them up with carp.

‘In all that time didn’t know the Environment Agency were promoting a nature reserve on the nearby River Cegin. Nobody said a word to me about the otters.

‘We then started hearing all these stories about otters being spotted no more than two miles away from us.

‘In 2008 I set about trying to sell off some carp to and when I netted a lake that had 8,500 carp in nothing came out.

‘I brought a consultant in and we drained the lake and it was empty. I later found evidence of fish bones that had been stripped of its flesh.

‘My case is that under the Environment Act 1995, the Environment Agency had a duty to carry out some sort of notice or consultation with me before the work began to encourage otters into the area.

‘This case could open the way for other fishery owners in Britain who feel they have not been given sufficient warning about the rising otter population.’

Mr Dodson spent 22 years working as a process control engineer at oil and gas refineries in the Middle East and saved up to start up his fishery business.

Curig Jones, a spokesman for Environment Agency Wales, said: ‘We are preparing to challenge this claim robustly on all counts.’

The four-day hearing is set to take place at the High Court in Cardiff on February 25.

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Bank form the brink: Otters were on the verge of extinction in Britain 30 years ago