A team of three Fishery Management Advisors has been recruited by the Angling Trust, supported by rod licence funds, to help angling clubs and fisheries reduce the impact of cormorant predation on inland fisheries.
In addition to the Fisheries Management Advisors (FMAs), there will be a new Area Based Licence that allows greater flexibility by encouraging fisheries to work together for greater effect. The FMAs will liaise with regional forums, river associations and consultative bodies to co-ordinate action at a catchment scale.
Following a competitive selection process, the FMAs began work in late April 2014 initially for one year and are employed by the Angling Trust. They will help fisheries better co-ordinate non-lethal management techniques and, where necessary, lethal control under licence from Natural England.
Natural England’s trial of Area-Based Management and Licensing will run from September 2014 to April 2015. At present, fisheries apply for lethal control licences individually. The trial will allow multiple fisheries to apply to Natural England for an Area Based Licence to coordinate more flexibly both non-lethal and lethal approaches in their area.
The new forms for the Area Based Licences have been designed to be as simple as possible to fill in and have been tested by a small group of fisheries, however, Natural England will be keen to get feedback on this throughout the trial.
By taking part in the trial, it is hoped fisheries will benefit from the sharing of best practice management approaches and greater access to hands-on support, as well as increased uptake of non-lethal management techniques, such as providing refuges from the birds for the fish. At the end of the trial, Defra will be seeking feedback from all fisheries involved to evaluate how effective the new approach has been.
Goosanders and mergansers were also considered as part of the 2011-13 review; new approaches to goosanders will be considered at up to two sites but mergansers will not be included in the trial. Coordinated, non-lethal approaches to addressing predation by these species are however encouraged and the FMAs will assist fisheries wherever possible.
Part of the role of the FMAs will be to help gather accurate data about bird numbers and, if monitoring of the combined need for lethal control exceeds the current national limit of 2,000 cormorants (and up to 3,000 for short periods), the limit will be reviewed by government.