John Bailey: United front needed to confront the cormorants

Don’'t overlook the damage cormorants can do to even big fish. Don’'t overlook the damage cormorants can do to even big fish.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014
1:43 PM

It doesn’t matter if you’re a sea angler, a river angler, a stillwater angler or a game angler, the cormorant threat to your fishing is real, evident and growing.

To send a link to this page to a friend, you must be logged in.

From now on, we’ll be seeing more cormorants wreaking more damage to our East Anglian fisheries and we are, by and large, doing little if anything to minimise the threat. But there’s hope.

Last year, the Angling Trust worked with DEFRA with a view to reducing the impact of predation by fish-eating birds in England. The result was the establishment of Fishery Management Advisors, three experts who are now touring the country taking to all angling clubs and riparian owners about cormorant control.

Their aim is to join neighbouring fisheries together and get them to apply for an Area Licence to combat the cormorant menace. At present, isolated fishery owners apply for individual licences to protect their own waters. This might work, but all it does is scare the birds elsewhere.

It’s not a long-term solution, it’s not even a partial solution. The Area Licence scheme, by contrast, if taken up, promises that cormorant control can be blanket, can be complete and the cormorants will have nowhere to hide.

Of course, lethal control does come into the equation but, by working together, fisheries can employ all manner of non-lethal control measures.

Some of them are extraordinary. Have you heard of Scary Man? This is an inflatable orange monster that pops up every few minutes looking like an neon-clad shooter. He can flash lights, make noises and look Hulk-like horrendous. Green laser pens work. Falconers can have an impact. And, above all, by letting the aquatic habitat grow as wild as possible, fish refuges can be created and this will make life, once again, much harder for the cormorant to hunt.

How can this possibly work? Well, I’m fishery director at the Kingfisher Lakes in Lyng. With the help of the Fishery Management Advisors, I should be talking to all the interested parties up and down the valley. How about getting on board Dereham Anglers, Norfolk Anglers Conservation Association, the Taverham Fishery and even Basil Todd? The Norfolk Flyfishers is already incredibly aware of the cormorant threat and works extremely conscientiously to protect its own lake and river. I’m sure they would come into an Area Licence scheme like DEFRA and the Angling Trust are proposing.

I’m sure you see where this is all leading. Instead of working in isolation and largely in the dark, by working together we can have far, far more impact. For example, we’ll learn where there are more cormorant roosts to target with Scary Man. There’s even something called a Quadcopter, a little remote controlled helicopter that cormorants abhor. They’re expensive, but by clubbing together we can really keep the birds moving on.

We don’t have all the time in the world. Not only will cormorant predation start in earnest as the cold sets in, this is a scheme, too, that has a finite life. If a number of Area Licences are not granted, by April 2015 DEFRA will conclude that anglers are apathetic or that the cormorants pose no real problem after all.

The Angling Trust has manoeuvred a massive window of opportunity for us anglers with this scheme. We’ve got to get behind the Trust, the FMAs and push our clubs into applying for Area Licences. If we don’t and if there are no more river roach in years to come, then we’ve got no-one to blame but ourselves.

Finally, as a birder and as a long-term member, I have to ask why the RSPB is so staunch in its defence of rising cormorant numbers. I’ve never been in a hide and heard oohs and ahs of admiration when a cormorant comes by. And just the other day, I went to a North Norfolk lake which has had its fish stocks completely annihilated by cormorant attention over the last 10 years.

I used to love taking my binoculars there to watch herons, kingfishers and grebes. Now there are a few ducks and a pair of swans. I’d say this to the RSPB: by your blind support of the cormorant, you’re actually helping eradicate the fish-eating birds that we actually do love to see.

Everything with feathers has to be cherished and because of cormorants, I’d have stood more chance of seeing kingfishers in King Tut’s Tomb than on that North Norfolk lake of mine.

6 comments

  • 40 years ago I remember Hickling Broad frequently having a cormorant on nearly every navigation post. They are not a recent immigrant, what has changed is the vast number of commercial fisheries stocked at great expense by the owners in search of profit. Hardly surprising that natural predators abound, At least with this proposal the author seems to be seeking non-lethal solutions, however I fear he will just move the birds elsewhere. I've seen the same argument against otters from anglers too, that these beautiful and native creatures destroy expensive fish stocks and so should be culled. Not sure what the answer is to this one but don't blame the natural wildlife for doing what they do. By the way I'm an angler, mainly sea, and I fail to see how on earth cormorants can damage sea fishing on anything like the same scale as commercial fishing activities.

    Add your comment | Report this comment

    SussexYellow

    Thursday, September 4, 2014

  • Giant orange men, falconers, laser pens & quadcopters. Who is this bloke?

    Add your comment | Report this comment

    Joy Birst

    Thursday, September 4, 2014

  • Anglers have been known to kill and maim cormorants to protect their precious fishing and are carrying increasingly more dangerous weapons to do so, these people leave fish hooks and tackle in the water, rubbish along the banks, and recently I witnessed 2 anglers throwing rocks at an otter, I would say anglers are a far bigger threat to our waterways than cormorants.

    Add your comment | Report this comment

    mr mayhem

    Thursday, September 4, 2014

  • Anglers have been known to kill and maim cormorants to protect their precious fishing and are carrying increasingly more dangerous weapons to do so, these people leave fish hooks and tackle in the water, rubbish along the banks, and recently I witnessed 2 anglers throwing rocks at an otter, I would say anglers are a far bigger threat to our waterways than cormorants.

    Add your comment | Report this comment

    mr mayhem

    Thursday, September 4, 2014

  • So they layout a Cormorant Buffet and then complain when they come to eat. Don't be fooled, this is not about the Environment, this is about cold hard MONEY.

    Add your comment | Report this comment

    Crazy

    Thursday, September 4, 2014

  • If Cormorants do that much damage, how come the broads are heaving with fish? I suspect the problem is mainly to do with these tame Carp Puddles where most fish are nothing more than overfed pets.

    Add your comment | Report this comment

    Catton Man

    Thursday, September 4, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

loading...

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT