Cormorant facts hard to establish

WEST AND FENS: Some reckon they're everywhere. Others say they're in decline. But is the Angling Trust's latest announcement in the cormorant debacle a little previous?

Many blame the birds for a decline in both silver fish and predators in parts of the Fens. On some clear gravel pits, there's little left in the way of medium-sized prey that grow on pike.

Estimates of their numbers and even how many fish they can eat in a day vary. The truth is no-one really knows.

As it stepped up the lobby to relax the rules on culling them, the Angling Trust set up a website where anglers could report sightings.

Sympathetic noises are coming from Whitehall, with Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon hinting the tide could turn angling's way.

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Now the trust's announced a partnership with the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC), which includes a hotline clubs and fishery owners can call for advice.

BASC bring something else to the party, as well as help filling in the nine-page form needed to apply for a licence to cull. Firepower.

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Wherever possible, its members will also visit and do the shooting, says the latest missive from the Angling Trust. Are we in danger of shooting ourselves in the foot here..? A pike angler wasn't fined for illegally removing roach from the Broads last week. He was fined for using one 3cms longer than the legally-allowed size for livebaits - and using four rods on one rod licence.

A piking trip on the Thurne system turned out to be an expensive one for the chap concerned, after he was nabbed by the Environment Agency.

Yarmouth magistrates gave him a fine of �170 and ordered him to pay costs of �127.

Not having two rod licences is a fair cop - albeit a rare one, when you look at how often checks are carried out.

But have the EA got their messages slightly mixed when it comes to the roach bit..? Don't poach roach, barks the agency's press release.

The angler wasn't poaching roach, or removing them. He was using one for bait.

As pike anglers have on the Broads and elsewhere for a century or more - without doing the roach population of either any harm.

After all the claims and counter claims about pike anglers illegally removing fish en-masse, the angling world saw sense in its responses to the national by-law consultation over so-called 'fish removal' a few years back, and the number of fish you could use for bait was upped from 10 to 15.

Other conditions apply to this, like they have for years - catching them from the water you use them on being the main one.

There's no suggestion that the angler concerned didn't do that - so why the illegal fish removal claim..?

The law says you can use fish up to 20cms – more or less 8ins, in old money – for bait. Does this mean from snout to tail root, tail fork, or tip of tail..?

You can't defend the guy on the rod licence issue, but many will wonder whether he's been unfairly judged in the roach department.

When you see holidaymakers trolling lures from cabin cruisers and all kinds of things going on which clearly do impact on stocks of pike and other coarse fish, is this really such a big deal..?

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