Specialist Anglers’ Alliance is delighted to announce it has agreed financial backing from the Environment Agency to help stop otter predation of still-water fish with EA funding for fencing to protect fisheries.

 

Until now SAA has not been able to get any financial support for fisheries affected.  DEFRA were the only route SAA had to find funding for otter protection and the Department had turned down every SAA approach for support over the last five years. Stocks of specimen fish, in some fisheries, have at times been decimated by the returning otter population, but £250,000 a year to protect the interests of 2 million anglers has been impossible to find!

 

Specimen carp are particularly vulnerable but pike, big eels and tench, are all taken by otters. Some fisheries have been ruined by such predation, and there is enormous frustration from anglers who fish such waters that they have been unable to do anything. Otters are fully protected by law; they may not be moved, disturbed or harmed in any way whatsoever.

 

SAA fully supports the return of the otter to the UK. But a top predator cannot be easily re-introduced into the managed aquatic environment, that is Britain today, without considering the consequences. SAA has worked closely with, and has had the full support of, English Nature (now Natural England), the Environment Agency, the Wildlife Trusts, and the Otter BAPS Group in trying to resolve this problem..

 

The only solution is to protect key fisheries with otter proof fencing.  Such fencing can only be used on still-waters.  SAA has been unable to develop suitable solutions for rivers. The EA funded an SAA study to establish the most cost effective fencing designs to keep otters out of specimen still-water fisheries, and these can be found on the SAA website at www.saauk.org, and on EA websites. Fencing isn’t cheap, even a 5 acre water could cost in the region of £5,000, and a 20 acre water could need £12-15,000!

 

SAA has again approached EA Fisheries with a plea for help, and they have agreed that the funding issue must be addressed. Adrian Taylor of the EA has advised that;

 

“There is no reason why otter fencing schemes should not be considered for our project bid funding. However, we must remember that the project funding comes directly from rod licence income, and therefore we need to ensure that the maximum number of anglers benefit from projects that we fund. Therefore bids are more likely to be successful if they relate to waters that are easily available – i.e. open membership, and if they are collaborative, so that the Agency is part funding. We would also expect the owner of the water to be making a contribution to the protection of their own assets to reflect the benefit that will come with this work’

 

The route for this funding is through our Area teams, and Fisheries Development Managers, who will also be able to provide more general advice, and may also be able to assist in identifying other sources for collaborative funding. I suggest that if you can identify one or two potential schemes, we can then point you in the direction of the relevant local team to consider.”

 

So the door is now open for a large number of waters to protect their fisheries from the ravages of otter predation. Anglers must also look beyond this to ensure all specimen fisheries at risk are able to obtain financial support, and SAA looks to the EA to include a submission for an increase in funding, to cover fencing costs for a wide range of waters. Without this many more large fish may be killed and there will be no way of preventing it. 

 

Those waters now suffering fish kills from otters must face the reality of an ongoing problem and either install fencing or face long-term fish kills. Bids to Environment Agency teams need to be structured and match funding will be vital to success.  If You think SAA can help, Contact us by email at otters@saauk.org.

 

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