The Angling Trust has today launched the Action on Cormorants campaign which urges anglers to write to their MPs supporting the call to put cormorants and goosanders on the general licence on an annual, reviewable basis.
This would give them the same status as rooks, crows, jays and magpies whose numbers can be controlled without resort to specific licence. Currently angling clubs and fishery managers have to use a bureaucratic, cumbersome and ineffective licensing system which has completely failed to protect stocks of vulnerable silver fish and salmon smolts in most parts of the country. Cormorant predation also has had a significant impact on endangered species such as the European eel.The campaign is supported by ten fisheries, angling and wildlife organisations including the Salmon and Trout Association, the Angling Trades Association, The Rivers Trust and angling celebrities such as TV host Chris Tarrant and singer Feargal Sharkey. Other partners include the award winning Avon Roach Project which features in a specially made campaign video by wildlife film maker Hugh Miles. There is a dedicated webpage at www.anglingtrust.net/cormorants, an online message facility and 80,000 postcards to be distributed to anglers via fisheries and tackle shops. Anglers will be asked to contribute to a ‘house of horrors’ picture gallery to get across to MPs and the public the horrific damage these birds can do. Action on Cormorants also urges MPs to follow the lead of members of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Angling and become parliamentary supporters of the campaign to protect our fish.In 2010 the Angling Trust won the agreement of Fisheries minister Richard Benyon to review the current ineffective licensing regime for controlling cormorant damage to our fisheries. The Defra Review Group is due to report shortly and the minister is expected to make an announcement in the winter.Angling Trust National Campaigns Coordinator Martin Salter said:“We need every MP’s office to be flooded with postcards and emails demanding that we have the right to protect our fish from the ravages of cormorants and goosanders. We know that our opponents on this issue are preparing a challenge and will seek to claim that a fourteen fold increase in cormorant numbers isn’t a problem when we all know that it is. Fortunately our campaign has the support of RSPB members who also love to fish and we have the fish stock surveys and match catch data to prove without doubt that the predator prey balance is out of kilter and needs to be addressed.”Angling Trust Chief Executive Mark Lloyd said:“This is an opportunity for thousands of anglers to stand up and be counted. It will only take a few minutes to support our campaign to let MPs know that we care passionately about protecting our fish stocks and that we want action on cormorants and goosanders now. We want a new system that will give fishery managers the opportunity to control these birds responsibly without expensive and unnecessary bureaucracy. Please contact your MP now and, if you can, make a donation to our Action on Cormorants Fighting Fund or join the Angling Trust to help us campaign more loudly on cormorants and other important issues affecting angling and fish stocks.”Paul Knight, CEO of the Salmon & Trout Association, said:“Fish deserve as much protection as their predators. We have to manage on an ecosystem basis, with healthy wild fish populations in balance with their predators. We can no longer give greater conservation status to any one species just because it has more popular appeal, and so fishery managers need a flexible and rapid licensing system which enables them to protect threatened fish stocks at particular times, such as during the annual downstream migration of young salmon and sea trout.”Some of the top names in angling have pledged to support the campaign which was officially launched on the banks of the river Severn, a river once famous for its catches of roach and dace.Local businesses in the Bridgnorth and Shrewsbury areas have been badly affected by the reduction in silver fish stocks and the cancellation of the regular fishing competitions which drew visiting anglers from all over the country.Award winning film maker and RSPB member and former employee Hugh Miles said:“ The cormorant is a silver fish killer unparalleled in nature whose numbers have increased to such an extent that the middle reaches of many rivers, including my local Hampshire Avon, are now all but devoid of once common and sought after species such as roach. Well balanced ecosystems need a healthy balance between predator and prey and we need action now to restore that vital balance and give our fish a chance.”George Hollingbery MP, Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Angling said:“I have witnessed first hand the damage that squadrons of cormorants have done to my local waters, where, in some cases fish stocks have been so badly depleted that they are no longer functioning fisheries. Angling delivers both environmental and economic benefit to communities the length and breadth of the UK. It is only right and proper that we allow fishing clubs and fishery managers the right to protect our fish from unsustainable predation.”Des Taylor, angling columnist and long standing RSPB member said:”One of my great loves in angling is seeing and enjoying the birdlife whilst I sit there on the bank. But when an unsustainable imbalance occurs, as has happened with the huge increase in the number of cormorants and goosanders on our waters, something has to be done to protect vulnerable fish species. We simply cannot sit there and watch our fish stocks go down to unacceptable levels. I back the Angling Trust’s stance on the cormorant problem in this country one hundred per cent and urge everyone to get behind them now. “Former match legend and all round angler, Jan Porter of Shimano said:“It’s vital that as anglers we all wise up on how much impact these invasive birds are having on our fish stocks. Getting behind the campaign en masse is crucial to ensuring that everything possible is done to reduce a threat which is proliferating out of control. The price of a fishing licence these days – when many other water users pay nothing – should include much more support to help & protect many coarse and game fisheries and fish from being wiped out.”Angling Times columnist and river ace, Dave Harrell said:”We need every single angler to get behind this campaign as it is one of the most important things they will ever do. We all know how much damage these birds have caused and it is imperative that the law is changed as soon as possible. Without change, we will continue to see fish stocks damaged and greatly reduced but with anglers support, I am sure we can achieve our objective. However, without that support, the future of many fisheries in this country will remain seriously threatened.”