It’s one of those topics that unites anglers right across the disciplines and leads to more frothing at the mouth than just about any other subject. I’ve lost count of the number of times that one of my fishing buddies has ended up ranting on about the impact of cormorants on yet another stretch of river or stillwater. Don’t get me wrong, I’m far from immune to it myself, in fact I have even been known to use some pretty colourful language when faced with the sight of a white, dead, tree and dozens of cormorants stripping the fish from one of my favourite fisheries. It’s hard not to end up blowing off steam and moaning to your mates despite the fact you already know they feel exactly the same as you. The “Cormo-Rant” as my mates have taken to calling it has become all too familiar to UK anglers as the numbers of cormorants and goosanders has increased dramatically in recent years and fisheries all over the country have suffered. However, at long last there is some good news on the horizon.
We have been campaigning long and hard for changes to the bureaucratic and ineffective licensing regime that clubs and fishery owners currently have to contend with if they want to control numbers of Cormorants and Goosanders. Finally, this week we concluded negotiations with the Government on the details of implementation of the new measures we announced last year to improve the protection of vulnerable fish stocks from predation by cormorants and goosanders. Below are the key changes that will be taking place.
- The funding of three Fisheries Management Advisors (FMAs), to be employed by the Angling Trust from April 2014, to help angling clubs and fishery owners reduce predation, to coordinate applications for licences across catchments and to gather better evidence about the number of birds in each catchment. (Details of these posts and how to apply are available on the Angling Trust website at http://www.anglingtrust.net/jobs)
- A commitment by the government to review the existing national limit on the number of cormorants that can be shot each year in light of evidence gathered by the FMAs from each catchment in 2014 and 2015;
- A simplification of the licence application form to make it easier for fishery managers to apply to control cormorants and goosanders;
- A removal of monthly limits within an annual licence;
- Extension of the control season to May at times of low flow when salmon and sea trout smolt migrations are particularly vulnerable;
- Agreement to increase the national limit for cormorant controls to the emergency level of 3,000 (from 2,000 last year) in 2014/5 if the need can be demonstrated.
Will the above really make a big difference to the impact that fish-eating birds have on our precious fish stocks ? Only time will tell. Certainly the new measures will empower angling groups to take more control for themselves and manage Cormorants at a catchment level, which has to be more effective than the current piecemeal, club by club arrangements. Let’s hope that as the new FMA’s get to grips with the planning and delivery of these new measures, we will see a real decrease in the number of fisheries which are decimated by cormorants, which should also lead to a dramatic decrease in “Cormo-ranting” by anglers up and down the country. For more details take a look at the press release on the official AT website.
John Cheyne is the National Regions Co-ordinator for the Angling Trust.