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Black death; Why anglers break the law to shoot cormorants.

Anglers are taking the law into their own hands and illegally shooting a fish-eating bird that has been controversially labelled as the Black Plague!

The cormorant is a large diving bird that traditionally lived in and around rocky seashores.

However, many of them have moved inland to feed on lakes, reservoirs and rivers and that's causing a major rift between anglers and conservationists.

There are believed to be around 19,000-20,000 cormorants in the UK, with perhaps half living on inland lakes and waterways and feeding on our native fish stocks.

Many anglers are convinced that the birds must be culled and a growing number of people are illegally shooting a species they describe as a "fish- mincing menace."

But, under British and European law, the cormorant is a protected species and shooting them without a licence is a serious offence.

However, that has not deterred some people who have even employed professional marksman to eliminate them.

However, cormorants are not just a British problem. The European Anglers Alliance organised a march, when thousands of anglers from Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Italy, Luxembourg and Austria marched on EU headquarters in Strasbourg to call for a cormorant cull.

A pounds 1.1million three-year study of cormorants, funded by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, ends in 1998 but, by then, a lot of anglers believe many of Britain's fisheries could have suffered irreversible harm.

Billy Makin, the owner of Makin Fisheries, near Wolvey, Leics, and Press and promotions officer of the Commercial Coarse Fisheries Association said: "Yes, we know that some people are shooting cormorants but, as an Association, we cannot recommend anglers or fishery owners to break the law. However, the law does need changing because unless something is done quickly we are reaching a critical situation.

"A cormorant will eat between 1.5lb and 1.8lb of fish a day and that works out at more than 500lb a year per bird. If 10,000 of these birds are now inland they could, with fish costing pounds 4 a year each to buy commercially, be eating pounds 60,000 worth a day.

"As an average, a well-stocked lake will contain 350lb of fish per acre. It doesn't take much working out that three or four cormorants would empty a small lake in less than a year. And that is exactly what is happening in many waters around the country.

"Cormorants are, in my opinion, an alien species on inland fisheries and could cause serious damage to other predators such as the heron, grebe, pike and perch.

"Potentially, I have a serious problem on my own lakes. We have 120 cormorants on a water five miles away and I am continually scaring them off my lakes.

"Some clubs are in serious trouble because there are no fish in their waters and that has a knock-on effect to the tackle trade, Less fish means less anglers and loss tackle sold.

"The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds doesn't seem to appreciate the gravity of the situation. If herons and grebes started to die, then perhaps they would look at the problem more seriously."

One vociferous supporter of the "shoot to kill" policy is Angling Times and, in a recent edition, they stated: "Each year the Black Plague spreads its devastation across Britain's waters, with the birds ravaging every canal, lake and river in their path.

"Shooting restrictions are so severe that those prepared to fight do so with the risk of prosecution hanging over them. Unless the cormorants are halted, angling faces an inevitable wipe out."

Angling Times have controversially printed some pictures of cormorants shot illegally and the paper added: "If you had any doubt about the size and seriousness of the threat, you need only look at the contents of one bird's stomach, There were 13 1oz and 2oz perch slaughtered by a fish- eating machine too efficient they can wipe out a whole fishery in just a few weeks."

Many private owners have been forced into taking the law into their own hands to protect their own livelihood and Angling Times does not condemn them for that.

But Robin Wynde, the RSPB's policy officer, said: "We believe it is completely inappropriate and irresponsible for the Angling Times to incite people to break the law.

"The law does provide an opportunity for fisheries managers, where there is serious damage, to apply to the Ministry of Agriculture for a licence to control limited numbers of birds.

"The Government has instituted a research programme into cormorants and that will detail, if necessary, what measures to take. That would include other non-destructive measures before shooting should be considered on a wider scale. In fact, there is a big question mark whether shooting is effective and we have to look at other solutions."

The National Federation of Anglers has also condemned the illegal shooting with a spokesman saying: "We must solve the cormorant problem by legal means. Flouting the law can only make it harder for us to get it changed as we believe it must be if angling's interests are to be properly protected.

The popular 170-acre lake at Fritton Lake Country World near Great Yarmouth once came up with a novel idea to scare cormorants - an American bald eagle named after Margaret Thatcher!

The water had been under siege from more than 200 cormorants and an application to cull the cormorants had been turned down. That's when Margaret, a bald eagle with a seven foot wing span, saved the day!

A spokesman for Country World said: "We had a falconry display in the park and decided that it would be more spectacular if Margaret flew across the lake during her show. The cormorants all took fright and fled when Margaret soared!"

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HOT TIP..* * * *

HOT RODS

Team title

is fair game

BRITAIN'S top teams will be scrapping it out for a first prize of pounds 5,500 - the largest team cash prize in Europe - in the 1997 CLA-NFA Team Championship.

The Country Landowners Association and the National Federation of Anglers have joined forces to stage the 10,000-plus event with the semi-finals and finals at the CLA Game Fair at Castle Ashby, Northampton on July 26 and 27.

The Game Fair will next year include Angling UK, which will be dedicated to coarse fishing and the new team event.

The Team Championship will be open to teams of five with qualifying rounds being held in the eight NFA regions with the top two teams from each region going through to the semi-finals.

The four winning sides from each semi-final will compete in the five- hour grand final.

Angling UK will also feature other coarse fishing displays and competition and among the celebrities will be two former world champions in Bob Nudd and Ian Heaps.

HOT TIP

now is the time for big river roach and look no further than a tasty piece of bread flake to tempt that 2lb fish of a lifetime.

If you can get to your favourite stretch of river, bait up in advance with mashed bread and then leger bread flake on the hook.

Pike duo land

pounds 100 prizes

Northants duo Gerald Hubbard and Tony Scott are pounds 100 better off after taking the biggest specimens during the pike fishing days on two of Anglian Water's top reservoirs.

Gerald, from Towcester, landed a 25lb 4oz pike from Ravensthorpe while Wellingborough's Tony hooked a 33lb 4oz monster at Pitsford.

'Record carp'

is a goldfish!

STEPHEN FUDGE thought he had broken the British crucian carp record when he landed a 7lb 8oz specimen from the Mill Lane Fishery belonging to Farnham AS. But a Natural History Museum advisor has confirmed that the "record crucian" is in fact a brown goldfish.

That means that the previous record of 5lb 11oz 8dr - believed to be the same fish - could be removed from the record list.
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Copyright 1996 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Sport
Author:Smith, Terry
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Dec 30, 1996
Words:1316
Previous Article:And Smith must score..; ..But he didn't score and sealed his place in history.
Next Article:Henman serves up new hope.


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