The European Fishing Tackle Trade Association, EFTTA, today backed calls for a Pan-European cormorant management plan – after new research indicated that fish stocks are being depleted by the birds at a rate of 1,000 tonnes a day.

The Association held its Annual General Assembly during the three-day EFTTEX exhibition on June 13-15 and saw graphic evidence that an increasing number of colonies of the fish-eating birds were sweeping across Europe at an alarming rate.

With more than 1million cormorants established on the continent – each capable of eating half a kilogramme of fish a day – the organisation is concerned that unless effective control measures are put in place, fish stocks could be wiped out in many areas of Europe.

Members heard that new figures for the number of breeding birds will be presented to the European Parliament Fisheries Committee later this month (June 26) by Franz Kohl, of the European Anglers Alliance.

It is hoped that the evidence will give additional support to the movement for a Pan-European Cormorant Management Plan – being spearheaded by Fisheries Committee member and German MEP, Dr Heinz Kindermann – which is due to be voted on by the Parliament in November.

On seeing a graphic map which illustrated the huge increase in cormorant breeding colonies between 1965 and 2005, EFTTA Chief Executive Officer, Jean-Claude Bel, said: “This is a shock. We all know that cormorant numbers are increasing, but this is the first time I have seen that fact presented in such an impactful way.

“It is quite horrific and clearly there needs to be a Europe-wide plan to manage cormorants.

“Naturally, we are concerned for the livelihoods of the 60,000 people employed in the European fishing tackle trade and their families. But this is not just about fishing – it is about stopping what could become an environmental disaster.

“More than a thousand tonnes of fish a day are being consumed by these birds – many of which have migrated inland and are wiping out indigenous freshwater fish stocks.

“Our leaders in Europe cannot afford to sit back and let that happen. Cormorant breeding has to be more tightly controlled. Doing nothing is not an option.”

The call for a common management strategy for cormorants in order to reconcile nature conservation and fishing interests was supported recently by researchers from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ).

Writing in the scientific journal Environmental Conservation, they suggested a five-step action plan, which would start with a consensus on the real numbers of birds and end in an international management plan.

They said that a common solution is not materialising currently because of too many different interests from individual countries and a lack of coordination.

Brussels-based lobbyist Jan Kappel, told the EFTTA AGA: “We now have some very strong data about cormorants, from highly-regarded experts like Mr Kohl. And there is support for a management plan from Dr Kindermann.

“This is the best chance we have. If we don’t get agreement for a management plan this time, then I don’t believe we ever will.”