NEWS that six thousand British ducks face slaughter because they are mating with the Spanish white-headed duck has ruffled feathers with anglers throughout the country who are now demanding action by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to organise a cull of inland cormorants.
The British ruddy duck cull, which is being organised by DEFRA, could cost £5 million and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and the Wildlife and Wetlands Trust both support the cull.
Environment Minister, Elliott Morley commented: “There is sympathy for the ruddy duck but we believe there is justification for what we are doing.”
The RSPB supports the cull on the grounds that, if the ruddy duck (which was an American import) is not removed, the white-headed duck may become extinct.
But the charity Animal Aid calls the move ‘genetic cleansing.’ Andrew Tyler, who is the director of Animal Aid says: “It’s a gross genetic cleansing of nature, which is unacceptable. Some of the ducks will be shot while they are sitting on nests with their chicks. It is a grotesque exercise.”
Dr Mark Avery, of the RSPB argued: “Ruddy ducks moving to Spain are the principal threat to the white-headed duck, which is threatened with extinction.”
A DEFRAspokesman claimed: “Shooting is the most effective way to cull but we are also considering the back-up of egg-piercing, which causes the chick inside the egg to die. We are aware that 50 per cent of landowners oppose the cull.”
Anglers are enraged about Government Departments sitting on their hands over cormorant predation, which is having a devastating affect on fish stocks, while millions of pounds is being spent protecting a duck which is being shot almost out of existence by the Spanish!
“Surely we have to get our priorities right” said keen angler Mike Clark of Coddington, Nottinghamshire, adding:  “I walk the banks of the Upper Witham most days and the cormorant has not only destroyed the stocks of smaller fish but has driven away the native kingfisher and heron from the river banks. Herons and kingfishers prefer a quiet environment and are prepared to work hard for their meal. But an aggressive cormorant crashing into the water destroys the solitude and the fish stocks the other birds depend on.”
Match organiser and chairman of Lincoln and District Angling Association, Frank Butler, added: “Cormorants have decimated fish stocks on our stretches of the Lower Witham and tidal Trent. There is no doubt that cormorants could pose a long-term threat to other wildlife if their expansion goes unchecked.”
Secretary of the NFA North East Region and an NFA national executive member, John Mitchell from Hull commented: “When I wrote an article in the NFA Bulletin dated February 1999, I pointed out that Government sanction had been given to cull the ruddy duck and the RSPB supported the cull.
“I also said that anglers have a long history of being one of the most environmentally and wildlife conscious groups in the country. We understand the RSPB’s concern about the effect that the ruddy duck is having on the white headed duck. All we ask is that they show similar concern for the effect that cormorants are having on native, and in some cases, genetically unique stocks of freshwater fish in this country.”
Cormorant expert, Martin Reid from Rotherham, a member of the NFA Cormorant Action Group, said: “Around 50,000 cormorants move inland during the winter months. Each of these fish eat approximately 1lb of fish every day – it dosen’t take a genius to work out the impact the bird has on fish stocks.”
“The public at large can’t see fish under the water and they don’t understand that two cormorants working on a five-acre fishery could kill every fish in two years,” said NFA President Ken Ball adding:
“No angler wants to see a total cull of cormorants but we want the balance to be right. If the public understood that cormorants do pose a threat to other fish-eating birds like kingfishers and herons, I believe public opinion would be on our side. I am confident the problem will be sorted out in Europe where cormorants are causing widespread damage.”