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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


19/07/2013 - Angling Trust team hails breakthrough over cormorant problem




Anglers and   fishery managers have today welcomed the decision by the Natural Environment   and Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon to replace the current bureaucratic and   wholly inadequate system of licensing the control of cormorants with a new   catchment-based approach which will allow for predator control based on local   needs rather than arbitrary national limits.  The Angling Trust’s Action   on Cormorants campaign received high profile political and celebrity backing   including from TV presenter Chris Tarrant.

The Angling   Trust has invested a huge amount of time and energy over the past three years   campaigning for angling clubs and fishery managers to have the right to   protect fish stocks from predation by cormorants.

Bird   numbers have exploded out of control since the 1980s to the point where the   survival of many fish stocks was being dangerously threatened.  For   example, on the once famous Hampshire Avon Environment Agency surveys have   shown a virtual collapse of roach in the middle reaches of the river where cormorant   predation is the highest.  Salmon smolts attempting to return to the sea   have been dangerously depleted in many rivers endangering successful   recruitment in future years and rural fishery businesses have seen their   livelihoods threatened as a result of unsustainable predation.

Although   details are yet to be fully clarified, the main features of the   catchment-based system look set to include:

* an end to   arbitrary national limits on numbers of birds to be shot  * three regional advisors to be appointed to support fishery managers, funded   by Defra  * cormorant numbers to be assessed annually by catchment  * as long as the conservation status of the birds are not threatened, the   scheme will continue annually

In his   letter to the members of the Defra review group Richard Benyon made clear his   determination to protect fish stocks saying:  ‘We must balance how inland fisheries and aquatic bio-diversity can be   protected from fish eating birds in an effective, proportionate and timely   way.’  During the review process the Angling Trust published a 10,000 word ‘Dossier   of Destruction’ illustrating the impact that the increase from 2,000 to   nearly 30,000 of over-wintering cormorants has had on fisheries, angling   clubs and rural businesses.  There were 80,000 hits on the Trust’s   special Cormorant Watch website recording sightings of the birds.

Angling   Trust Chief Executive Mark Lloyd said:

‘Back in   2010 the Angling Trust persuaded Richard Benyon to review the   hugely-bureaucratic rules which have completely failed to protect fisheries   and wild fish stocks from the dreadful affects of a near 15-fold increase in   cormorant numbers in the UK over the last 25 years. Time after time we had   reports of angling clubs and fisheries whose stocks were in real trouble only   being allowed to shoot a couple of birds a year when literally hundreds of   these lethal predators were wreaking havoc on the local fish stocks.

‘We’re   delighted that we have won a major decision from the government this week to   announce sensible predator management measures and will work with them to   find a sensible balance between birds and fish in each and every catchment.   The current situation had got completely out of control and real action on   cormorants has been long overdue.’

Angling   Trust Campaigns Chief Martin Salter added:  'This is looks like being really good news for both angling and fisheries and   is a tribute to years of hard work by many people who were not prepared to   stand idly by and watch our fish stocks being decimated by squadrons of   cormorants, many of which are European birds not native to the UK. At long   last, those of us who care for the nation's fisheries will be given a chance   to deliver a safer environment for young fish and threatened species.

‘We are   particularly grateful to Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon MP, his Labour   predecessor Ben Bradshaw and all the other MPs from right across the   political divide, including our colleagues in the All Party Parliamentary   Group on Angling, who have supported this campaign. Thanks must also go to everyone   who sent off one of the 100,000 postcards produced by the Angling Trust to   lobby their MPs and to our friends in the angling and countryside media for   regularly highlighting this important issue. Now the challenge is to make Mr   Benyon’s new scheme work so that our fish get a fighting chance to survive   and breed.’

George   Hollingbery MP, Chair of the APPG on Angling said:

‘I   particularly welcome Richard Benyon’s insistence that it was perfectly   possible to produce a scheme that allows for greater and more effective   control of cormorants without endangering the conservation status of either   birds or fish. I hope everyone will now get behind what is an entirely   sensible approach based on the needs and challenges in individual   catchments.’

The   declining roach stocks of the Hampshire Avon became a centrepiece of the   Action on Cormorants campaign with a 16,000 petition from the Avon Roach   Project being presented to Richard Benyon in February 2012 by a delegation   that included celebrity anglers Chris Tarrant and Feargal Sharkey and   wildlife film maker Hugh Miles.

TV   presenter Chris Tarrant said:

‘At last we   seem to have a government minister who is prepared to take action to enable   angling clubs and fishery managers to protect our vulnerable fish stocks from   unsustainable predation by squadrons of these lethal predators whose numbers   have expanded incredibly over the last 20 years'.

Trevor   Harrop from the Avon Roach Project welcomed the news saying:

‘We are   delighted by this announcement, and see it as a victory for common sense.  Now, we look like having the right to protect our vulnerable and endangered   fish populations, the work we do through the Avon Roach Project to restore   the river’s natural fish population stands a far greater chance of   succeeding.’

RSPB member   and award winning wildlife film maker Hugh Miles added:

‘At long   last we are seeing some sensible concessions to save our valuable fish life   from the tragedy of unsustainable predation by cormorants. This follows years   of hard and dedicated work by the Angling Trust and many others and   represents a real  triumph for all those who have contributed to the   campaign.’

Environment   Agency data shows that angling in England & Wales is worth in excess of   £3.5 billion to the economy and generates nearly 40,000 jobs.  Rural   businesses have warmly welcomed the Government announcement on greater   controls of fish-eating birds.

Adam   Fox-Edwards from the Arundell Arms in Lifton, Devon, the premier game fishing   hotel in the South West said:

‘It is   important that both the public and politicians realise the huge economic   value of both our fish and fisheries.  Cormorant numbers have spiralled   out of control in recent years and it is vital for businesses such as ours   that a sensible balance is restored.’




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Martin James Fishing
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