Have The Angling Trust Shot Themselves In The Foot?
by David Griffiths
01 Nov 2017
The Angling Trust has recently claimed that cormorants and goosanders are “decimating” fish stocks in Welsh freshwater fisheries. Emotive language. It is clear that, since 1981 when cormorants were granted protected status, their numbers have risen significantly on Welsh waters.
The Angling Trust are seeking to double the numbers which can be shot in Wales and to make it easier for fisheries to apply for licences to cull. 80 licences have been issued since 2013, leading to 477 birds reported killed. In England a simplified licensing application is now in place. The Angling Trust are seeking to get the Welsh Assembly to follow suit.
NRW have confirmed in recent months that migratory fish stocks are at “unprecedented lows”, and they have proposed new bylaws, including making it mandatory for anglers to return all migratory fish.
However, questions remain as to the impact of bird predation on fish stocks in comparison to other factors. Afonydd Cymru appear to be much more concerned about agricultural pollution.
Despite such claims as angling being “thought” to contribute about £150m a year to the Welsh economy, a proposal to kill more birds which eat fish has already caused outrage among wildlife enthusiasts and especially ornithologists. The Welsh Ornithological Society say there is insufficient evidence that these species are a problem, and NRW is not planning to make changes to its cull licensing system.
Angling is already under pressure from bloodsports lobbyists. And if the Angling Trust’s main purpose is to promote fishing in all forms across the UK, it may not be the best idea to give more ammunition to those who seek to prevent us enjoying our sport. Especially when there is a strong argument that bird predation is a tiny problem for fisheries in comparison to the wider and more damaging effects of agricultural factors such as chemical run-off into water courses and habitat damage from farm animals.
An initiative which paints a portrait of anglers as willing to kill birds just so we can catch more fish, may not be the best PR from a body established to promote our sport.
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Editor, and keen angler!