AnglingTrust The voice of Angling

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Cormorant Watch 2 Log your sightings of cormorants, goosanders and red-breasted mergansers today!

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Cormorant Watch poster Download your copy of the Cormorant Watch poster here. Alternatively, please call 01568 620447 to request a hard copy.

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Cormorants vs Roach This great video from the Avon Roach Project helps tell the story of our Cormorant Campaign.

George Eustice

Letter to Fisheries Minister - October 2017 Read our letter to the Fisheries Minister, demanding a doubling of the total number of cormorants licensed to be shot in England to at least 6,000.

Predation by Cormorants and Goosanders

Cormorant - credit Jake Davoile - 550px

Our Cormorant Campaign – from 2009 to present
Since its conception in 2009, the Angling Trust has been campaigning to make it easier for fishery managers to protect their precious fish stocks from cormorant predation and for greater control of these extremely damaging fish-eating predators. We continue to believe that the best outcome would be for cormorants to be included on the general licence as long as the conservation status of the birds is not threatened. However, we have not been able to persuade ministers to adopt this approach which is why we are pressing for the best possible outcomes within the licensing framework.

Pressure from angling organisations and angling-related businesses initially saw a previous government introduce a limit on the number of cormorants licensed to be shot of 2,000, with a temporary increase to 3,000. Since then, the work of the Angling Trust since then has led to fishery managers applying for a far greater number of cormorant licences.

In 2012 we launched Cormorant Watch – a data-gathering website where anglers could log sightings of cormorants, in addition to goosanders and red-breasted mergansers – other highly damaging fish-eating birds. Thousands of anglers took part and registered over 120,000 sightings, which gave us a much better understanding of the abundance and distribution of cormorants in England.

The Angling Trust used the information generated from Cormorant Watch to convince the government to change the way cormorant licences work in England. This reform saw the introduction of the Area-Based Licence system, which have reduced bureaucracy and costs for hard-pressed fishery managers and angling clubs. Furthermore, our campaign resulted in the government funding two full-time Fishery Management Advisors to be employed by the Angling Trust to help fisheries and clubs nationally with licence applications and with non-lethal control of predators. The introduction of Area-Based Licences has been welcomed by those participating in these schemes.

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Two examples of fish badly damaged by goosanders and cormorants, respectively. Neither game nor coarse fish are safe from avian predation.

The next steps
While some tremendous progress has been made, the Angling Trust recognises that cormorants are still causing huge damage to fish stocks throughout England, and also in Scotland and Wales. Cormorant populations in the UK have continued to grow and consequently we feel that the time has arrived for the number of cormorants licenced to be shot in England alone to be at least doubled to 6,000 birds annually. In his letter to the Angling Trust in 2013, the Fisheries Minister George Eustice MP promised to review the upper limit licensed to be shot if evidence of demand could be demonstrated. 2016/2017 represents the second consecutive winter of licences exceeding 3,000 birds, and consequently the Angling Trust believes that this condition has now been met.

The Angling Trust is very concerned about the damage being done to fish stocks by goosanders, particularly to declining salmon and sea trout stocks. The licence application procedure for goosanders is much more bureaucratic that the current regime for cormorants – evidence of damage must be shown before a licence to shoot can be granted, and this is near-impossible to prove with only 283 birds being licensed to be shot in 2016 despite many more applications. We believe that a far simpler process for licensing the control of goosanders is now required.

Cormorant Watch 2
The Angling Trust has written to the current Fisheries Minister, George Eustice MP, to demand a doubling of the number of cormorants licensed to be shot in England annually to 6,000 and for the removal of requirements for evidence that goosanders are damaging fisheries before a licence will be issued. This letter was sent to coincide with the launch of Cormorant Watch 2, which we used to gather new data about the abundance and distribution of cormorants and goosanders in England, Scotland and Wales.

The Cormorant Watch website is now closed! Thank you to everyone who took part and recorded their sightings.

The Avon Roach Project
The Angling Trust's cormorant campaign has been run in close collaboration with the award-winning Avon Roach Project. Trevor Harrop, who started the project, explained: "It’s hard to believe it’s six years since we started the call to have the cormorant licensing law changed to a more reasonable, acceptable and effective policy. We have worked extremely hard and unremittingly and have achieved an element of progress, but we need much more movement on the current woefully inadequate licensing regime.

The over-wintering numbers of cormorants in the UK continues to be one of the greatest threats to the wellbeing of our inland fish populations and indeed to the very balance of our wildlife diversity. They are unacceptably impacting on not only the general fish assemblage throughout the UK, but also on our designated species such as the salmon and eel, two of the most protected fish species in Europe, and that’s aside from my beloved roach, and we must continue to push hard to be given the right to protect our vulnerable fish populations, which, at the moment, we do not have.

Despite arguments about actual bird-count numbers, it is recognised that the very presence of cormorants is acceptable evidence of potential danger, so the relaunch of ‘Cormorant Watch’ will be the perfect data gathering accompaniment to our next stage of the ongoing campaign.
Now with the increased advantage of ‘Smartphone’ film and photo technology, it will be hard to ignore.

We continue to strive for further positive change, and will not give up. The fight must go on…"

The Angling Trust’s Cormorant Campaign is proudly supported by the Avon Roach Project, the Predation Action Group, the Carp Society and Fishing Megastore/Glasgow Angling Centre. We’re very grateful to them for their support. Further donations to help pay for the costs of political lobbying and this major campaign would be very welcome.

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