Fishing-Eating Birds (FEBs) have been an issue in the angling community for years, both in the UK and continental Europe.
In Britain and elsewhere, the particular FEBs that have a major impact on inland fish are cormorant and sawbill ducks (goosanders and red breasted mergansers).
The Angling Trust and the Avon Roach Project have made a joint statement about England’s 2019 general licence review. This statement includes some specific information about cormorant numbers in the UK:
“Cormorant numbers in the UK have increased from 2,000 in the 1980’s to a current over-wintering population of more than 62,000, and with each bird requiring at least one pound of fish every day, the level of conflict is immense.
This burgeoning population, now over-wintering here in the UK, is mainly made up of the European sub-species Phalacrocorax Carbo-sinensis, which prefer living and hunting inland in the fresh water of our rivers, streams and lakes.”
It also states “The cormorant is widely recognised, even by the Government's own Moran Committee as causing an unsustainably high level of ecological conflict.”
The UK law protects these particular FEBs. Although there is provision to issue licences to scare and kill them in the UK, there is great hesitancy to grant them in Wales. The guidance notes for the Welsh licensing arrangements for shooting birds to prevent serious damage to fisheries include the statement “Cormorants, sawbill ducks (goosanders and red-breasted mergansers) and herons are recognised predators of fisheries. While Natural Resources Wales (NRW) is aware of the concerns of fishing interests, it has to give due consideration of the available evidence when reviewing applications for licences to kill FEBs. The application guidance notes include the following:
“Applications must provide detailed evidence that serious damage is occurring or likely to occur. This may include evidence gathered from previous years’ experience and any information about the current numbers of fish-eating birds present in the fishery or fish farm. Careful distinction should be made between the answers to 5(c), damage to stock (which for example might include taking of young stock) and 5(d), damage to fishery (which might include effect on e.g. catches, rod licences etc. and other sources of income). All applicants must complete a ‘log of action form’ recorded for a minimum of 10 site visits dated at least 3 days apart prior to submission of the application.”
The evidence required is:
- Details of feeding activity (ie where, when an dhow often observed)
- Estimates of the number of fish damaged or likely to be damage
- Assessment of likely damage to the fishery e.g. loss of income – you must give full details of recorded losses, catch records, damage reports, costs of replacing stock, rod licence/subscription losses
- Identify any other factors influencing the fishery e.g. mink or other predators, low levels of water, quality of water, habitat quality, poaching, etc
In the past UFA gained a licence for the whole river Usk, which allowed around five FEBs to be shot. The river Usk is just over 63 miles in length!