FOLLOWING the change of policy with regard to the control of cormorants announced by Minister, Ben Bradshaw last September there has been a marked increase in the number of licences to kill offending birds.

From 1st July 2004 to 25th January 2005 Defra have granted 259 licences to kill 1748 birds. This compares with the same period in the previous year of 123 licences to kill 644 birds.

However there is a problem. One of the conditions of the licence is that a return of the number of birds actually shot has to be submitted to Defra in January and June each year. This enables Defra to complete statistics that are required by law every year under the Birds Directive. It also assists them in forward planning and completing the model for licensing numbers the following year.

To date a large number of licence holders have not completed the required returns despite telephone calls and written reminders.

All fishery managers and angling clubs should bear in mind that the new policy is being intensively scrutinised by the RSPB who are looking for any excuse to overturn the new procedures by way of a judicial review. This will include looking at applications and the returns (or the lack of them) under the new Freedom of Information Act.

If returns are not submitted in time Defra will have no alternative other than to revoke these licences and may even be forced to abandon the new procedures that enable us to protect our fish stocks.

Terry Mansbridge, Chairman of the Moran Bird Group said, “ It is important that we know the actual number of birds shot so that we can counter the RSPB argument that the new procedure will affect the survival status of cormorants. We fought long and hard to get these changes. Don’t let us down”.