Anglers Want To Kill Otters

3/2/10

Angling Trust calls for cull of otters eating too much fish

Otters were reintroduced in the 1980s and 1990s and have exhausted food supplies in many places.

Simon de Bruxelles - The Times.

The reintroduction of the otter, one of Britain’s best-loved wild animals, has been a catastrophe for the £1.1billion a year coarse-fishing industry, the Angling Trust claimed yesterday. Dozens of angling clubs, fish farms and fishing lakes say they have been forced out of business because they have been unable to protect their stock from otters. Owners of fishing lakes are resorting to desperate measures to keep the otters out, including erecting fences, and are pressing the Government to allow a cull to keep numbers to manageable levels. Some experts claim that without special measures the sport of coarse freshwater fishing could be wiped out within five years. Otters have enjoyed a remarkable renaissance since the 1950s and 1960s when they were all but wiped out by hunting, pollution and loss of habitat. They were reintroduced in the 1980s and 1990s and have exhausted food supplies in many places. Now they have found easy pickings in artificially stocked fishing lakes.

Last autumn the Environment Agency made available £100,000 a year in grants to fisheries towards otter-proof fencing. The fund does not go far when it can cost more than £10,000 to protect a small lake. Chris Burt, of the Angling Trust, which represents 1.4million anglers, says otters can empty a lake of large fish in a matter of days. "People think otters are warm and cuddly looking... but any fishery in Britain that does not have protection is at severe risk. Otters have been reintroduced into rivers that cannot support themselves, let alone otters. They have cleared out the rivers of their main diet of eel and have been looking elsewhere for their food. They aren't stupid and if you have a lake within five miles from a river they will find it and empty the place." In the winter, when the reeds have died back, carp are lethargic and easily visible. The otter will dive in, find a 20lb fish, grab it by the tail with their teeth and drag it back to the bank where they will then eat about 3lbof flesh from the back and leave it.

Although the dead fish will be fresh for three days the otter will ignore it and go back into the water and get another 20 pounder. We are talking about tens of thousands of fish that have been lost. I know of at least one 50lb carp that has been killed, as well as a number of 40 pounders and thousands and thousands of 20 pounders.” Mark Simmonds, a fish farmer, was forced to close three of his sites after otters ate £30,000 worth of stock. Mr Simmonds, from Romsey, Hampshire, said: “Otters have been released into an environment that cannot sustain them. It’s like releasing wolves next to a sheep farm. “Four years ago I had never seen a fish damaged by an otter on any one of my fish farm sites yet I have gone from nothing to breaking point in four years. Angling will be dead within five years if nothing is done. The otters have got to be culled, it’s the only answer.”

The Bungay Cherry Tree Angling Club in Waveney, Suffolk, has been forced to close a lake that has been fished for 65 years. Mark Cato, club secretary, said: “Our lake was decimated by otters and we lost over £40,000. I know another club that lost twice that amount to them.” Of the five lakes leased by the Windermere, Ambleside and District Angling Association, it has only been able to afford to fence off two. Neil Birkinshaw, club spokesman, said: “We had to abandon one of the five because there was no way of stopping the otters. “They had killed the majority of the carp and there was no point in restocking or trying to manage the situation because all we were doing was feeding them. We have managed to protect two of the others sites with fencing. After we put the fences up we haven’t had an incident of otter predation.” A spokesman for the Environment Agency said that because otters were thriving it was a good indicator as to the health of a watercourse. The spokesman saidHe added: “We sympathise with fishery owners. In situations where fish losses to otters are particularly high, or are likely to be a serious problem, steps should be taken to prevent otters gaining access.”

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article7012716.ece

 

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