Castle Water, which sits in the centre of the Rye Harbour Nature Reserve in East Sussex and attracts numbers of bitterns during the winter, has a problem. And the problem is too many cormorants.
So many in fact that the Reserve Management Committee has taken steps to reduce their numbers. In order to reduce the availability of suitable habitat and therefore limit the numbers of birds the willow trees in which the cormorants roost and nest have been removed.

The action is being taken in order to protect the special wetland wildlife that lives at the gravel pit where water quality has deteriorated because of high phosphate levels introduced from bird droppings.

Many wetland species are threatened as a result including fish, aquatic plants, the rare medicinal leach and the bittern, which is attracted by the fish in the Reserve. The Nature Reserve believe that there is no other practical solution and have consulted widely in order to gain the consent of English Nature, the RSPB, the Sussex Wildlife Trust and the Rye Harbour Nature Reserve Management Committee.

NAFAC National Council member and long term cormorant campaigner Martin Read commented: “For years anglers have highlighted the problems caused by cormorants but their comments have gone unheard, although the adverse effects of numbers of cormorants on their immediate environment has long been recognised in Scandinavia. I believe this to be the first instance in the UK where non-anglers have sought to control them, perhaps others might follow. This is a novel approach which although at face value eliminates the need to cull the birds, it does leave them homeless and with poor long term prospects of survival.”