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Fishing’s Future

Rejection of improved cormorant control measures is bad news for tackle industry


Efforts to protect UK fish stocks from the damaging effects of cormorants have again been thwarted by the Government.

Proposals that would help to control numbers of the ravenous birds – which have rapidly multiplied in the last 30 years – have failed to get the approval of ministers. Despite arguments from anglers and fishery owners that predation by cormorants is unsustainable, new shooting licences coming into force on January 1, 2021, make no allowance for better controls.

The current Natural England licensing scheme for cormorant control remains in place with a cap of 3,000 birds in any one year. The rejection is bad news for a tackle industry concerned about participation and the fundamentally-linked issue of fish stocks. The Angling Trust, the representative body for anglers in England and Wales, has campaigned alongside the Avon Roach Project and other partners to have cormorants added to the general shooting licence so that number can be better controlled.

 In a comprehensive submission to ministers, the Trust made the case that overwintering cormorants in England are now estimated at over 30,000; that they pose a direct threat to designated endangered fish species protected under legislation; and that each cormorant requires around 500g (1.1lb) of fish every day.

The Trust also argued that changes to the licence are necessary to enable fishery managers to protect their fish stocks and their livelihoods Martin Salter, Head of Policy at the Angling Trust and long-time campaigner for cormorant controls said: “It’s a matter of extreme frustration that governments of all persuasions seem reluctant to acknowledge the damage these invasive birds can do to some of our vulnerable native fish species.”

 Trevor Harrop, of the Avon Roach Project, added: “It is extremely disappointing and frustrating to see the species responsible for the greatest threat [to fisheries and inland waters] remaining unlisted on the General Licence. It seriously calls into question the level of qualification of those making these decisions and how unarguable facts and sound science can simply be ignored. This is nothing short of an insult and we will not let this be the end of it.”

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