Report cormorant sightings online, Norfolk anglers urged

Anglers across East Anglia were last night urged to report cormorant sightings via a new website.

The sport's leaders are stepping up the campaign for a cull of the fish-eating birds with an online survey aimed at getting a better idea of their numbers.

Many believe cormorants have decimated stocks in lowland rivers and stillwaters. Packs of the birds have been seen on gravel pits and rivers.

As the river fishing season gets under way in Norfolk and elsewhere the Angling Trust has launched a web site for anglers to record sightings called cormorantwatch.org.

It hopes to use to site to gather evidence to help persuade government of the need for action to protect fisheries.

The trust has already persuaded Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon to carry out a review of the licensing procedures.

Mr Benyon said he was prepared to take 'bold decisions'.

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Angling Trust chief executive Mark Lloyd said: 'This is a moment when anglers need to stand up and be counted.

If people don't record sightings of cormorants and other fish eating birds on this site, then the politicians and civil servants will not have the information they need to make decisions which could affect the future of fishing for the next generation.

'All anglers who see one of these birds in the next few months must make the effort to visit cormorantwatch.org and put a pin in the map, whether they are a member of the Angling Trust or not.'

Hugh Miles, angling and wildlife film maker said 'I'm a fanatical roach angler which is rather unfortunate because most of my favourite stretches of river have been devastated by cormorants. I'm delighted that the Angling Trust are taking up our cause in the hope of ensuring we still have fish to catch.'

Dave Mannall, director of the Carp Society said: 'Play your part by using the cormorant watch mapping website and, if you haven't done so already join the Angling Trust and support the initiatives they are working on to ensure we anglers have a voice at the highest level.'

Fisheries scientist Dr Bruno Broughton said: 'By building a nationwide picture of the distribution and behaviour of cormorants, these facts can be used to inform future efforts to protect vulnerable fisheries.

'It is futile to complain from the sidelines about the impacts of cormorants on fisheries without doing something about it.'

But the RSPB - whose former conservation director said anglers were 'a bit bonkers' - said a cull was 'a last resort'..

Sarah Eaton, the RSPB's species policy officer, said: 'Government research into the impact of cormorants found no evidence that cormorants damage fish stocks at a national level at all.

'Where damage occurs locally, this is usually because fish stocks are at high densities.

'This can of course be a very serious issue for the fishery involved, and we do not object to lethal control as a last resort at fisheries with a genuine problem. 'However, a large-scale cull of cormorants is not the answer. Research is showing that there are some very promising non-lethal measures, such as fish refuges, which can help reduce the level of predation by cormorants, so we look forward to seeing these put to good use.'

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