Line drawn under zander debate
Chris BishopWEST NORFOLK AND FENS: Sleep tight if you're a zander angler - for Natural England officials have no plans to prosecute anyone who returns them, despite claims to the contrary.Chris Bishop
Sleep tight if you're a zander angler - for Natural England officials have no plans to prosecute anyone who returns them, despite claims to the contrary.
Rod rage erupted in predator circles, after claims the Wildlife and Countryside Act obliged them to kill the species. But a different picture emerges from documents revealing what government conservation advisors were saying behind the scenes.
Zander anglers and enlightened clubs like King's Lynn AA, who realise the fish are both a valued sporting species and a source of ticket revenue, will take heart from internal correspondence released under Freedom of Information laws, which effectively draws a line under the debate. One e-mail, from Natural England policy chief Stephen Arnott, warns officials: "Prosecuting an angler for returning a zander to the water it's just been caught from would not be in the public interest.
"The environmental damage this might cause is likely to be nil. I can't pretend to know much about the workings of the Crown Prosecution Service, but looking at their guidelines I can't see them taking a case like this to court."
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Zander are classed as an alien species under the Wildlife and Countryside Act. But the law was brought in almost 20 years after they were introduced to the Great Ouse Relief Channel by the Great Ouse River Board - a forerunner of the Environment Agency.
Environment Agency officials are already on record as stating they had no plans to enforce the so-called letter of the law where zander are concerned. One of the most definitive guides to fishing for them was written by one of its fishery officers, who return zander they catch during routine surveys.
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While the main plank of the argument against returning the fish was that they damage stocks of roach and bream, those who fish the Fens know that zander have found a niche alongside their prey, whose populations have remained healthy if catches in recent seasons are anything to go by.