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Defra consultation on the general licence: an opportunity to tackle predation of our fish

13.09.19

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The Department for the Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs (Defra) has launched a public consultation on the review of the general licence.

This consultation is open for anyone to submit their views on the areas and species covered by the licence. They are looking for those views to be supported by evidence and the consultation closes on 5 December 2019.

This is an important opportunity for anglers, fisheries, clubs and riparian owners to make your views around the impact of fish-eating birds on fish population, and the profitability and viability of fisheries.

Stuart Singleton-White, Head of Campaigns at the Angling Trust, said: “Many of the birds that pose the greatest threat to our fish and fisheries are not currently covered by the general licence. While non-lethal methods are always the preferred option, they are not always practical or possible.

"This consultation, and the broader review of the general licence, is an opportunity to place birds, such as cormorants, onto the general licence.”

Singleton-White went on to say: “It strikes us as strange and illogical, that birds who pose a severe threat to fish populations are afforded high levels of protection, while fish are not. Take the Atlantic salmon, a protected species and one suffering a catastrophic decline in numbers. Cormorant are having a devastating effect on these fish.

Cormorant numbers have massively increased in recent years and they have moved further and further inland. Their conservation status is not under threat but the salmon is, and if we are not able to take action we could see this king of fish disappear from our rivers in the near future.”

Defra’s survey is seeking views and evidence on how to use general licences for wild birds. In particular, how they should be used to:

  • kill or take wild birds to conserve wild birds and to conserve flora (plants) and fauna (other animals)
  • kill or take wild birds to preserve public health or public safety
  • kill or take wild birds to prevent serious damage to livestock, foodstuffs for livestock, crops, vegetables, fruit, growing timber, fisheries or inland waters.

There will be pressure to remove some of the existing birds covered by the general licence. The Angling Trust will be arguing strongly that as part of the review, as well as removing birds, there has to be scope to add others.

Singleton-White added: “In a perfect world, the predator prey relationship would find a natural balance. Unfortunately, with the massive growth in cormorants coming in from the continent and with the myriad of pressures our rivers and freshwater face, this is not the case.

"England’s natural environment needs to be actively managed to give fish a chance and to maintain the biodiversity we all love. That management involves both non-lethal and, at times, lethal control. Importantly, we would not want to see any control that threatens the conversation status of any species. At the Angling Trust, we welcome the fact the general licence should be reviewed on an annual basis.”

More information on Defra’s consultation can be found here.

The online version of the survey can be found here.

The Defra press release announcing the survey can be found here.

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