MP Who Says Beavers Kill Fish Kills Fish!


Angling MP would rather drown worms than see beavers

November 2009. Labour's Parliamentary Angling spokesman, Martin Salter, used last week's Commons debate on fisheries to describe as "ludicrous" plans by Natural England to re-introduce the beaver to the English countryside. He claims that they are "four stone giant rodents" and, rationally, that "Natural England envisages an army of highly literate beavers in council uniforms carefully consulting maps of flood risk sites before deciding which trees to chop down"; he even asks "why do we not take the DNA of Tyrannosaurus Rex?"

Despite plenty of evidence to the contrary, Mr Salter claims that releasing beavers in England will cause flooding, be bad for woodlands and devastate fish stocks. Wildlife Extra wonders if he is worried about the fish themselves, or spoiling the fun of the worm drowners that Mr Salter champions.

Evidence from Canada, where they know a few things about beavers, is that "Through their damming activities beaver supply up to 25% of the low summer water reserves required for viable fish habitat" (See below for more). Additionally the wildlife authorities of Oregon stats that:- "Beaver dams can be of tremendous benefit to Oregon's native fish.

By providing ponds where fish are protected from strong winter flows. By providing plenty of brush and woody debris in which juvenile fish can hide from predators, beaver dams help young trout and salmon survive their first, vulnerable year."(See below for more)

Canada is well known for its salmon fishing, despite having a few beavers breeding there. In fact the beaver population of North America is estimated at 15 million, though this is a long way short of the 200 million estimated to live there before Europeans arrived. Fish do seem to have survived in Britain, and everywhere else where beavers have thrived in the past, or do now.

However the Reading West MP has highlighted new legislation that is designed to remove obstructions to migrating fish seeking spawning grounds.

Mr Salter said "The current situation is ludicrous. On the one hand, we are seeking to ensure that migratory fish can run the rivers and reach the spawning grounds. On the other, Natural England talks of reintroducing the beaver, the one creature which, by creating dams, will ensure that all our legislation on fish passes becomes absolutely worthless. If we really have to introduce endangered species, why do we not take the DNA of Tyrannosaurus Rex or the wolf and bring them back to Britain? There must come a point at which reality impinges on what Natural England seeks to do."

In March, Natural England and the People's Trust for Endangered Species published a feasibility study into the re-introduction of the European beaver and acknowledged the "contribution that beavers make to river and wetland management." The study stated that "it is clearly feasible to re-introduce beavers into England with many consequent benefits, not least for beavers to assist with river and floodplain restoration."

However Mr Salter believes "These must be two of the most absurd statements uttered by a publicly funded body in recent years. Quite clearly Natural England envisages an army of highly literate beavers in council uniforms carefully consulting maps of flood risk sites before deciding which trees to chop down and where to build their dams! In reality, these are four stone giant rodents with a genetic programme set to cause deforestation and flooding. Hardly a priority for the English countryside at a time when we are trying to plant more trees and alleviate the effects of the worst flooding many communities have ever experienced."

According to Mr Salter "An adult beaver can bring down a 10 inch wide tree in under an hour, and a single beaver family will fell up to 300 trees a year. In the upper Danube region of Germany, beavers have caused £5 million of damage and they are now being culled." (How many have been culled, Wildlife Extra has no information about this?)

"In Scotland, where a limited release programme has already caused great controversy, the Tweed salmon fishery alone is worth an estimate £100 million to the local economy. In the south of England, the rivers Test and Itchen generate over £3 million between them and are situated close to the New Forest, one of the proposed release sites. Further west in the New Forest we have the Hampshire Avon, perhaps the most famous angling river in England. It is not just fish such as salmon and sea-trout that could fail to reach their spawning grounds due to beaver dams - most river species including chub, barbel, roach and dace will migrate considerable distances to find suitable sites."

Other proposed release locations in the Natural England study include the Weald of Kent, the Peak District, the Forest of Bowland and, incredibly, the Lake District. Mr Salter added "The prospect of unconstrained beaver dams raising flood water levels still higher will be greeted as a sick joke by people in Cumbria who are still clearing up the wreckage of the November flooding.

Wildlife Extra has nothing against angling, or Mr Salter, and nor are we 100% sold on the reintroduction of beavers, especially if they are going to run up the ludicrous bills that the Scottish beaver reintroduction scheme has (£1.8M to reintroduce just 3 families - Read more.).

However Wildlife Extra believes that this is the sort of one-eyed, unbalanced view that does no-one any favours, especially Mr Salter, as it is so obviously leaning towards the anglers view. If Mr Salter is so worried about the state of fish stocks, perhaps he should stop advocating killing them in such large numbers for sport.


From Dusk 'til Dawn
An Insider's View of the Growth of the Animal Liberation Movement

© Keith Mann