Still Carp­ing On

Carpworld - - CONTENTS - -Tim Pais­ley

Tim re­turns to the abid­ing is­sue of pre­da­tion or, more cor­rectly, the ex­ces­sive pre­da­tion of our wa­ter­ways caused by too many ot­ters, cor­morants, goosanders, sig­nal cray­fish and mink, which is now caus­ing a very sig­nif­i­cant and po­ten­tially dis­as­trous in­bal­ance on many fish­eries, from which re­cov­ery may prove vir­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble

Tim re­turns to the abid­ing is­sue of pre­da­tion or, more cor­rectly, the ex­ces­sive pre­da­tion of our wa­ter­ways caused by too many ot­ters, cor­morants, goosanders, sig­nal cray­fish and mink, which is now caus­ing a very sig­nif­i­cant and po­ten­tially dis­as­trous in­bal­ance on many fish­eries, from which re­cov­ery may prove vir­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble

The quick an­swer to the ti­tle’s ques­tion is that a num­ber of peo­ple are try­ing very hard to do some­thing about pre­da­tion, but achiev­ing changes in the law, and in the neg­a­tive mind­set in the cor­ri­dors of power of an­gling and the Gov­ern­ment, takes time. A de­gree of uni­fi­ca­tion in the world of an­gling would help, but that ap­pears to be too much to ask!

The goal posts have moved slightly in re­cent weeks in terms of where I was headed (Ed­i­to­rial, Carp­world 329, Fe­bru­ary 2018) and di­verted me from where I was go­ing on the po­lit­i­cal front. Pre­da­tion is an on­go­ing theme in the world of an­gling, and it tends to man­i­fest it­self most strongly, and most sick­en­ingly, dur­ing the win­ter months. The rea­son for that isn’t im­me­di­ately ob­vi­ous, but if you look at the over­all big pic­ture of pre­da­tion it might be to do with the fact that we have of the or­der of 30,000 cor­morants (An­gling Trust fig­ure) and 12,000 goosanders (RSPB fig­ure) over­win­ter­ing on our wa­ter­ways. We are told that each of these preda­tory birds re­quires a min­i­mum of 1lb of fish per day to sus­tain them.

What’s that got to do with the pre­da­tion of spec­i­men fish in rivers and still-wa­ters, and or­na­men­tal fish in gar­den ponds? A great deal! There isn’t enough ‘prey’ in our rivers to keep the over­pro­lif­er­a­tion of over-pro­tected preda­tors fed so their preda­tory in­stincts have to take them to any species in the nat­u­ral world, above and be­low the sur­face of the wa­ter, that will sus­tain their di­etary re­quire­ments. We are told cor­morants and goosanders prey on fish up to 12-14 inches in length.

‘Nearly 2,000,000 fish were re­leased into our rivers in 2015, 452,000 ac­tual young fish, and 1.3 mil­lion lar­vae. They were re­leased into rivers all over the coun­try, as fol­lows: 53,729 chub, 46,850 dace, 67,875 roach, 66,976 bream, 15,231 tench, 88,034 cru­cian carp, 35,125 rudd, 20,000 grayling.’ En­vi­ron­ment Agency.

Gov­ern­ment ac­tu­ally in­tro­duced the in­vid­i­ous, now-ubiq­ui­tous sig­nal cray­fish. Big mis­take

Con­sider the fig­ures. Is it rea­son­able to take a ball­park av­er­age weight of circa 1lb per fish con­sumed by our over­win­ter­ing preda­tors? If that’s so, and 40,000 birds re­quire 1lb of fish per day, then they con­sume of the or­der of 6,000,000 fish per win­ter. The EA re­lease fig­ures quoted above in­clude 1.3 mil­lion lar­vae, on which sig­nal cray­fish are likely to thrive. Now con­sider the fol­low­ing quote.

‘Nearly 75% of our rivers are fail­ing to reach good eco­log­i­cal sta­tus, and many of these are fail­ing be­cause of poor fish pop­u­la­tions.’ An­gling Trust press re­lease, May 2015.

A few years back the ‘fail­ing rivers’ fig­ure was 60%. Do you think it is likely to re­duce given the on­go­ing level of pre­da­tion we have had thrust on us by Europe and a Gov­ern­ment which ac­tu­ally in­tro­duced the in­vid­i­ous, now-ubiq­ui­tous sig­nal cray­fish, which are guar­an­tee­ing there is no prospect what­ever of our rivers re­cov­er­ing?

The Pre­da­tion Ac­tion Group has lived with the spec­tre of pre­da­tion in all its forms for the past eight years. Prior to the for­ma­tion of the PAG there were other ini­tia­tives try­ing to make sense, firstly of cor­morant pre­da­tion, and then of ot­ter pre­da­tion. The im­pact of cor­morants was recog­nised long be­fore the im­pact of ot­ters, and the es­ca­lat­ing cor­morant prob­lem was ac­tu­ally de­bated in par­lia­ment in the 90s, fol­low­ing on from the stren­u­ous ef­forts of Martin Read, ably as­sisted by then MP Martin Sal­ter, in his ef­forts (as fully re­ported by Martin in the PAG’S doc­u­ment The Big Pic­ture).

Ot­ters started to be­come an is­sue from the end of the last cen­tury, but their im­pact was seen to be a mi­nor­ity one and the warn­ing signs, strongly sig­nalled by Chris Burt and the SACG at the time, were largely ig­nored, or even ridiculed. (Chris’s first SACG Press Re­lease on the sub­ject of ot­ters was dated Jan­uary 1999).

Oth­ers recog­nised the signs of prob­lems be­ing pre­sented by the dif­fer­ent in­di­vid­ual preda­tory species but John Wil­son was one of the first to see, or at least pub­li­cise, the big­ger pic­ture be­cause as far as I’m aware John’s lo­cal river, the River Wen­sum, was the first wa­ter­way to feel the im­pact of the triple thrust of pre­da­tion by sig­nal cray­fish, cor­morants and ot­ters. John raised his con­cerns with the then newly-formed An­gling Trust, over-zeal­ously, I’m told. He was a reg­u­lar speaker at our Five Lakes’ Carpin’ On show in that pe­riod and it was through John’s per­sua­sion/in­sis­tence that I got in­volved with the move­ment that was to be­come the Pre­da­tion Ac­tion Group. In all hon­esty I was some­what scep­ti­cal that there was a prob­lem on the scale John was sug­gest­ing, and I didn’t re­ally see why pre­da­tion by sig­nal cray­fish and cor­morants should con­cern me as a carp an­gler. On the other hand John is an­gling roy­alty and to be co­erced by him into ac­tion was rather flat­ter­ing, so I went along with his vi­sion of the fu­ture dev­as­ta­tion of our wa­ter­ways.

‘I didn’t re­ally see why pre­da­tion by sig­nal cray­fish and cor­morants should con­cern me as a carp an­gler.’

‘Did we re­ally want to leave noth­ing for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions of an­glers to fish for?’ John’s con­cern and pow­ers of per­sua­sion were im­pos­si­ble to ig­nore. Eight years or so on I can only mar­vel at his in­sight, and fore­sight.

At that time pre­da­tion was largely in­vis­i­ble. Sig­nal cray­fish? So what? Bit of a prob­lem with dis­ap­pear­ing carp baits, but be­yond that, no big deal. Cor­morants? They only eat small fish, don’t they? Goosanders? Rather at­trac­tive birds, re­ally. So the first most of us knew about the im­pact of pre­da­tion was the ot­ter pre­da­tion of spec­i­men fish, ini­tially the most high pro­file cases in­clud­ing the pub­li­cised death of known spec­i­men bar­bel. There was scep­ti­cism. Even the late Fred J Tay­lor doubted that ot­ters could, and would, pre­date on big fish, and Fred was a coun­try­man through and through. Cur­rent PAG chair­man Tony Gib­son was one of the first to be con­vinced that ot­ters were killing big bar­bel, and I be­lieve he was scoffed at for this be­lief. Ridi­cul­ing con­cern, and scoff­ing at the idea that pre­da­tion is po­ten­tially a se­ri­ous is­sue, has been a re­cur­ring theme since the first lob­by­ing on the sub­ject in the mid-90s.

John Wil­son raised the ques­tion of pre­da­tion of still-wa­ters at the 2010 Carpin’ On show, to an au­di­ence of carp an­glers, of course. “How many of your wa­ters have suf­fered pre­da­tion by ot­ters?” Seven or eight hands went up out of an au­di­ence of about 100. There was still an el­e­ment of ‘What’s all the fuss about?’ When Mark Holmes asked a sim­i­larly-sized au­di­ence the same ques­tion at Five Lakes two years ago ev­ery hand went up. Pre­da­tion of carp had mul­ti­plied rapidly be­cause of the im­pact of cor­morants, and be­cause ot­ters had spread rapidly. The spread was nu­mer­i­cal and ge­o­graph­i­cal – the ini­tial ot­ter re­leases be­ing from The Ta­mar Sanc­tu­ary in Corn­wall, the Ot­ter Trust at Bun­gay in Nor­folk (close to where John lived) by the Vin­cent Trust in York­shire, and via a mul­ti­ple re­lease at Lech­lade in Glouces­ter­shire. The ge­o­graph­i­cal lo­ca­tion of the ini­tial re­lease sites was re­flected in our doc­u­ment, The Big Pic­ture, in which the main as­sess­ment of re­gional ot­ter pre­da­tion came from Mark Holmes in York­shire, John Wil­son in East Anglia, and Adam Roots in the South­west. They

painted a very dark pic­ture, and John’s fea­ture in par­tic­u­lar specif­i­cally drew at­ten­tion to the im­pact of pre­da­tion on liveli­hoods, with ex­am­ples.

Ad­mit­tedly mak­ing ‘progress’ on the pre­da­tion is­sues via the PAG, which is af­fil­i­ated to the An­gling Trust, has been slow go­ing. All the work is vol­un­tary, and fund-rais­ing via ap­peals and at meet­ings and shows has been es­sen­tial to the cause. Why? Be­cause if we want to make a mean­ing­ful case to the un­con­vinced de­ci­sion-mak­ing suits in the cor­ri­dors of power in Brus­sels and White­hall then we have to present an ir­refutable case de­tail­ing the ex­tent of the pre­da­tion prob­lem. Prov­ing that case in­volves re­search, fact-gath­er­ing, and then find­ing a way of mak­ing the in­for­ma­tion avail­able. To that end the PAG is in­vest­ing up­wards of £10,000 in a pre­da­tion film, and pro­duc­ing a sec­ond, up­dated vol­ume of its ac­claimed doc­u­ment The Big Pic­ture, which will cost a fur­ther £2,000-plus to pro­duce, print and cir­cu­late. The case we are mak­ing is based on the fol­low­ing out­line, which is the film story-board pre­sented to the film mak­ers, David Hat­ter and my old friend, cam­era­man John Dun­ford, both known to us through the good of­fices of Ian Chill­cott, with whom they have worked ex­ten­sively in the pro­duc­tion of TV films. Here is our broad ba­sis out­line for the film­ing, which has been in­ter­preted re­mark­ably well in the film, and which is near­ing com­ple­tion.

There is a re­cur­ring theme in this bur­geon­ing pre­da­tion sce­nario, and that is in the tim­ing, as fol­lows:

Sig­nal cray­fish: a grow­ing threat from the mid-70s on­wards fol­low­ing their ill-ad­vised in­tro­duc­tion as a food source by the Gov­ern­ment.

Mink: a grow­ing threat from mid-60s on­wards fol­low­ing es­capes from mink farms and il­le­gal re­leases by ac­tivists.

Goosanders: a grow­ing pop­u­la­tion in north­ern Eng­land and Wales since 1970. We now have 12,000 of these preda­tors over­win­ter­ing in Great Bri­tain (RSPB fig­ure), mainly on the west­ern side of the main­land.

Cor­morants: a grow­ing threat since the in­creas­ing in­cur­sion of Pha­lacro­crax carbo sinen­sis (the so-called Chi­nese cor­morant) since the mid-80s. There are of the or­der of 30,000 cor­morants over win­ter­ing in Great Bri­tain. (An An­gling Trust fig­ure aris­ing from Cor­morant Watch, which is cur­rently be­ing fol­lowed up by Cor­morant Watch 2, sup­ported by the PAG, the Carp So­ci­ety and the Avon Roach Project).

Ot­ters: a re­birth from 1970 on­wards, with the ot­ter re­leases of the 1990s, and be­yond, ac­cel­er­at­ing the spread of ot­ters and their im­pact on the ecol­ogy.

Still-wa­ter carp and spe­cial­ist an­gling: a rapid growth from the mid-70s on­wards.

In other words the growth and spread of pre­da­tion has co­in­cided with the growth and spread of carp and spe­cial­ist an­gling. Is this a prob­lem which will level out and in which na­ture it­self will re­pair the dam­age to the ecol­ogy? The ev­i­dence sug­gests not. There are too many preda­tors, and not enough prey, and the pro­lif­er­a­tion of sig­nal cray­fish will en­sure that the short­age of prey will con­tinue to de­te­ri­o­rate. There is a cur­rent buzz word in con­nec­tion with the ecol­ogy, and that is ‘bio­di­ver­sity’. What it ac­tu­ally means is that the en­tire nat­u­ral world has to re­volve around the pro­tec­tion of ot­ters, and, to a slightly lesser ex­tent, cor­morants and goosanders, which in re­al­ity has noth­ing what­ever to do with bio­di­ver­sity.

When I spelt out the march of the preda­tors as out­lined ear­lier on Face­book re­cently in an at­tempt to put things in per­spec­tive, the re­sponse was heart-warm­ing, to put it mildly. There were two dis­sent­ing voices which came back with com­ments that ot­ter pre­da­tion is per­ceived as a carp prob­lem. As the dis­sent­ing voices were from bar­bel an­glers there was a cer­tain irony in­volved, which I’ll come back to.

From the out­set the PAG’S pol­icy has been to ad­dress the en­tire pre­da­tion pic­ture in terms of its im­pact on nat­u­ral life above and be­low the sur­face of our wa­ter­ways. Ex­plain­ing this to carp and spe­cial­ist an­glers who see only that their beloved carp and big fish are be­ing pre­dated on by ot­ters has been a tough call, but I’ll ex­plain why we feel it is nec­es­sary to fo­cus on the en­tire pic­ture. Our be­lief has al­ways been that an­glers act­ing alone will not make progress in terms of get­ting the au­thor­i­ties to ac­cept that there is a strong case to be made for greater con­trol of preda­tors. We are talk­ing about pos­si­ble changes in the law here, at both Euro­pean and Gov­ern­ment level. Cor­morants, goosanders and ot­ters are pro­tected. There are li­cences avail­able for lim­ited lethal con­trol of cor­morants and goosanders from Nat­u­ral Eng­land, and there is a Nat­u­ral Eng­land Class Li­cence op­er­a­tive cov­er­ing the trap­ping and re­moval of an ot­ter from a suit­ably fenced fish­ery, sub­ject to re­lease im­me­di­ately out­side the fish­ery fence. In the­ory you can ap­ply to Nat­u­ral Eng­land for a li­cence for lethal con­trol of an ot­ter in an in­stance where all else has failed and a liveli­hood is at risk, but that area of con­trol has not been tested, and ‘lethal con­trol’ of ot­ters is not an av­enue the An­gling Trust is will­ing to ad­dress. There is an­other ‘re­moval’ li­cence avail­able from Nat­u­ral Eng­land which does not spec­ify the ‘fenced fish­ery’ re­quire­ment, but this vague mea­sure has again not been put to the test. In light of the re­lease clause for trap­ping in fenced fish­eries, then the prospects of trap­ping on an un­fenced fish­ery does not look good, but there is a body of opin­ion which says it needs test­ing.

There is a draw­back there, too. Let it be whis­pered but there is a ten­dency for some fish­ery own­ers, landown­ers and ri­par­ian own­ers to take the law into their own hands where their liveli­hoods are at risk and all else has failed in terms of de­ter­ring preda­tors. As carp an­glers we feel the im­pact of pre­da­tion by ot­ters most strongly. In fact the area that will most strongly af­fect fu­ture liveli­hoods is the pre­da­tion of salmon, sea trout and brown trout, which in turn is al­ready im­pact­ing on the tourist in­dus­try, and will con­tinue to do so. That brings us to the vexed ques­tion of unity in an­gling, be­cause there isn’t a great deal of that.

The for­ma­tion of the An­gling Trust has long in­trigued me, be­cause what­ever the think­ing was be­hind its orig­i­nal for­ma­tion, it clearly didn’t work out. My go-to guy on an­gling pol­i­tics is Mike Heylin OBE, hap­pily for us sec­re­tary of the Pre­da­tion Ac­tion Group, and in­volved with nu­mer­ous other an­gling bod­ies at lo­cal, na­tional and in­ter­na­tional level. His knowl­edge of an­gling pol­i­tics, past and present, is en­cy­clopaedic. The An­gling Trust was sup­pos­edly an amal­gam of the other ma­jor an­gling bod­ies ac­tive at the time – ‘the time’ be­ing 2008. In the run-up to the launch of the Trust the bod­ies throw­ing their hats into the ring to form the Trust were the NFA, the NFSA, the ACA, the S&TA, NAFAC and the SAA, the lat­ter be­ing the Spe­cial­ist An­glers’ Al­liance. That was the plan un­til very late in 2008, with the An­gling Trust about to be launched in Jan­uary 2009. In De­cem­ber 2008 the Salmon and Trout As­so­ci­a­tion with­drew its planned in­volve­ment and went its own way. In fact the S&TA be­came the Salmon and Trout Con­ser­va­tion Trust and reg­is­tered as a char­ity. Char­i­ties can’t have a po­lit­i­cal in­volve­ment. The An­gling Trust went ahead, but CEO Mark Lloyd’s pro­jec­tion of 100,000 mem­bers within two years turned out to be pie in the sky, and the Trust cur­rently has an in­di­vid­ual mem­ber­ship of roughly 1% of li­cence hold­ers. Mike Heylin was chair­man for four years, and helped put the Trust on a sound fi­nan­cial foot­ing, but at some cost in terms of in­de­pen­dence [my per­sonal view] be­cause the Trust is de­pen­dent on grants from the En­vi­ron­ment Agency and Sport Eng­land, and pos­si­bly else­where, when avail­able. Grants have to be used for the spe­cific pur­poses for which the grant is made, hence my ‘in­de­pen­dence’ com­ment. In ad­di­tion it is fair to say that you don’t bite the hand that feeds you.

There were early signs that the Trust didn’t have the same grasp of pre­da­tion is­sues as John Wil­son and oth­ers, so the PAG was formed to re­search and re­port on pre­da­tion, and, if nec­es­sary, to lobby for greater con­trol of preda­tors. It’s also fair to say that sup­port for the ini­tia­tive was less than whole­hearted, mainly be­cause there was still scep­ti­cism re­gard­ing the se­ri­ous­ness of the long-term im­pact of pre­da­tion. For rea­sons that were al­ways lost on me there was con­tin­u­ing scep­ti­cism from many spe­cial­ist an­glers, although I was al­ways un­der the im­pres­sion that the de­struc­tion of big bar­bel by ot­ters was one of the first tremors to be felt in terms of ot­ter pre­da­tion of big fish. (Fred Sykes’ carp wa­ter in Cum­ber­land was the first still-wa­ter to be dev­as­tated by ot­ters go­ing back to the late 90s, as re­ported fully in Carp­world at the time).

What it ac­tu­ally means is that the en­tire nat­u­ral world has to re­volve around the pro­tec­tion of ot­ters, and, to a slightly lesser ex­tent, cor­morants and goosanders, which in re­al­ity has noth­ing what­ever to do with bio­di­ver­sity

There have been other pre­da­tion ini­tia­tives. I’ve al­ready men­tioned Martin Read’s de­ter­mined ground-break­ing ef­forts re­gard­ing pre­da­tion by cor­morants, de­tailed in The Big Pic­ture, which were heroic.

The Nor­folk An­glers’ Con­ser­va­tion As­so­ci­a­tion (NACA) was vo­cif­er­ous and op­er­ated from around the time of the launch of the PAG. I see from their web­site that they have just wrapped up their ac­tiv­i­ties which is a shame be­cause they were a force for the good for a great many years.

The Avon Val­ley Roach Project’s con­cern re­gard­ing pre­da­tion by cor­morants led to a high pro­file 16,000-plus sig­na­ture pe­ti­tion be­ing pre­sented to the Gov­ern­ment, the ac­tual pre­sen­ta­tion be­ing strongly sup­ported by the An­gling Trust and a num­ber of an­gling and po­lit­i­cal lu­mi­nar­ies. The Avon Val­ley Project sup­port AT’S Cor­morant Watch, as do the PAG and the Carp So­ci­ety, and I see they now in­clude salmon and eels in their species for con­cern.

There was a 5,000-plus sig­na­ture pe­ti­tion pre­sented to the Gov­ern­ment in 2013 on pre­da­tion is­sues, although no one seems to know the source of this, and its im­pact was min­i­mal. We were un­aware of this pe­ti­tion un­til re­cent re­search brought it to light.

The Carp So­ci­ety has al­ways been po­lit­i­cal, although their im­pact less­ened for many years un­der the re­cently-de­posed regime. Their an­gling pol­i­tics ini­tia­tives are now back on track – they share some of the PAGS board’s per­son­nel, and the group’s ob­jec­tives, and give strong fi­nan­cial sup­port.

More re­cently Des Tay­lor and the Bar­bel So­ci­ety sub­mit­ted a pe­ti­tion to the gov­ern­ment on the sub­ject of ot­ter river pre­da­tion, which was re­jected by De­fra, which I’ll come back to.

So while os­ten­si­bly we have an an­gling gov­ern­ing body which makes rep­re­sen­ta­tions to the Gov­ern­ment on all is­sues which af­fect an­gling, with a mem­ber­ship of just 12,000 no one can claim that an­gling is uni­fied, and it cer­tainly isn’t on the thornier pre­da­tion is­sues.

I was not alone in be­ing a tad be­mused by the tim­ing of the Bar­bel So­ci­ety pe­ti­tion ini­tia­tive. At the North­ern An­gling Show last year the bar­bel guys came to see me, a tad cap in hand, very apolo­getic for not get­ting be­hind the Pre­da­tion Ac­tion Group ear­lier, and show­ing a clear in­tent to get in­volved. The ap­proach was so en­cour­ag­ing that the PAG ar­ranged a meet­ing of po­ten­tial group and an­gling body sup­port­ers for last Novem­ber, which duly took place. Im­me­di­ately prior to this meet­ing the Bar­bel So­ci­ety had a meet­ing with the An­gling Trust, on the sub­ject of ot­ter pre­da­tion. Then they launched their pe­ti­tion, which came to light af­ter the Pag/groups meet­ing in Novem­ber, although it’s not clear if it was in the pipe­line prior to that meet­ing. I think prob­a­bly not. But what these ini­tia­tives re­flect is in the head­ing to this piece.

‘Why doesn’t some­one do some­thing about pre­da­tion?’

Oh that it was that sim­ple. From the out­side look­ing in it is easy to get im­pa­tient and de­mand ac­tion – but what ac­tion? The Bar­bel So­ci­ety pe­ti­tion was seek­ing a so­lu­tion to ot­ters on rivers, which al­ready ex­ists (in the­ory), and the dis­mis­sive Gov­ern­ment re­sponse, quoted be­low, high­lights the dan­gers of frag­men­ta­tion and a piece­meal ap­proach to a prob­lem:

‘While the Gov­ern­ment un­der­stand con­cerns raised about the im­pact ot­ters may have on fish pop­u­la­tions, they are a pro­tected species and there are no plans to in­tro­duce meth­ods to con­trol their num­bers. The Gov­ern­ment un­der­stands that there are con­cerns that ot­ters may have ad­verse im­pacts on fish pop­u­la­tions and wildlife more gen­er­ally but we do not ac­cept that the ot­ter has be­come a detri­ment to the river en­vi­ron­ment.’

When you get a straight ‘No’ to a pe­ti­tion, how­ever well-mean­ing its in­tent, it puts you on the back foot be­cause there is then an en­trenched out­look that you have to find a way of work­ing your way round. We are up against an en­trenched at­ti­tude at an­gling ad­min­is­tra­tion, Gov­ern­ment and Euro­pean Gov­ern­ment lev­els. There is no easy an­swer to find your way through that de­gree of in­tran­si­gent en­trench­ment!

The ul­ti­mate out­come of the Pag/groups meet­ing last Novem­ber is on­go­ing, but in terms of ‘uni­fi­ca­tion’ of pre­da­tion is­sues it has been hugely en­cour­ag­ing. Carp farmer Chris Cur­rie was al­ready on the PAG board prior to that meet­ing, and his in­sight into the na­tion­wide prob­lems of carp and fish farm­ers through pre­da­tion is prov­ing of huge help in the com­pi­la­tion of Big Pic­ture 2. There are of the or­der of 100 carp farms and 50 fish farms in this coun­try, with in­nu­mer­able out-source stock ponds in use. In ad­di­tion Chris is a con­trib­u­tor to the me­dia on the sub­ject of pre­da­tion via DHP.

Tim Small, the pro­pri­etor of the Lech­lade Trout Farm, which ad­joins Horse­shoe Lake, at­tended the ‘uni­fi­ca­tion’ meet­ing and has thrown his weight be­hind the PAG ef­forts, and through his con­nec­tions with The Bri­tish Trout Farm­ers Re­stock­ing As­so­ci­a­tion, which has now been ab­sorbed by The Bri­tish Trout As­so­ci­a­tion, who are so im­pressed by our ef­forts that they have con­trib­uted both fi­nan­cially to the PAG’S cof­fers, and mean­ing­fully, via Tim’s fea­ture, to Big Pic­ture 2. Trout farms are heav­ily pre­dated by cor­morants and ot­ters and talks are tak­ing place at Gov­ern­ment level over this prob­lem, which is ac­tu­ally re­flected in terms of dam­age to the food chain and the ru­ral econ­omy.

How big is the prob­lem? There are 360 trout farms in this coun­try! Be­cause of the on­go­ing need for run­ning-wa­ter in­lets and out­lets ot­ters are ac­tu­ally a greater prob­lem for many trout farms than avian preda­tors, which can be con­trolled by fenc­ing and net­ting bar­ri­ers.

In Big Pic­ture 2 the re­ports on the im­pact to fish, carp and trout farms are ad­di­tions to the orig­i­nal Big Pic­ture ma­te­rial, as is the im­pact on salmon and trout rivers. Again there is go­ing to be an el­e­ment of ‘so what’ from some carp and spe­cial­ist an­glers, but add the im­pact on the ru­ral econ­omy, and the im­pact on the tourist trade to the prob­lems we have been able to high­light in the past and the big pic­ture gets big­ger and big­ger. We have been bang­ing the drum very loudly on the

pre­da­tion of game fish for some years now, and fi­nally there is a grow­ing recog­ni­tion of the ex­tent of the prob­lem. Our early at­tempts to high­light the pre­da­tion of game fish were be­lit­tled by the game fra­ter­nity, but the re­lent­less pre­da­tion of ev­ery phase of salmon and brown trout life is now be­ing recog­nised by re­searchers, and in the cor­ri­dors of power. The Avon Roach Project ma­te­rial now lists salmon and eels among the species se­ri­ously threat­ened by pre­da­tion. Both are pro­tected species.

None of this is to play down the sig­nif­i­cance of ‘recre­ational an­gling’, which is val­ued at £3 bil­lion by the En­vi­ron­ment Agency. The Scot­tish Tourist in­dus­try is threat­ened, and is val­ued at £120 mil­lion. Dam­age to our home ru­ral econ­omy and tourist in­dus­try will fol­low, and is al­ready be­ing felt. The tourist in­dus­try, the ru­ral econ­omy, fish farm­ing, trout farm­ing, the an­gling in­dus­try – these are all ar­eas we have re­searched dili­gently for years now and we are turn­ing re­ports on the im­pact on them into a co­he­sive ar­gu­ment against the over-pro­tec­tion of preda­tors in Big Pic­ture 2, and in the very pro­fes­sional pre­da­tion film which is near­ing com­ple­tion.

If you are im­pa­tient and think there is an overnight fix to pre­da­tion, the Gov­ern­ment state­ment quoted ear­lier is dis­cour­ag­ing. If you con­sider that it took a cam­paign last­ing from 1866 to 1918 for all women to win the right to vote then the time-scale of achiev­ing any­thing at the level of na­tional and in­ter­na­tional law comes into per­spec­tive. The Gov­ern­ment state­ment quoted above shows how much ig­no­rance there is on pre­da­tion is­sues in the cor­ri­dors of power and makes me more de­ter­mined than ever to help the PAG achieve some sort of break­through within my life­time – my orig­i­nal ob­jec­tive when I first got in­volved in the move­ment. I think I can num­ber Des Tay­lor, who was a name be­hind the Bar­bel So­ci­ety pe­ti­tion, among my friends. Ear­lier this year he was talk­ing about ar­rang­ing a march on White­hall to high­light the pre­da­tion is­sue. That may be more ef­fec­tive than a sin­gle-species pe­ti­tion high­light­ing ot­ter pre­da­tion in rivers, but a word that is com­monly used in con­nec­tion with an­glers is ‘ap­a­thy’. If you’re go­ing to have a ‘March On White­hall’ wait un­til Big Pic­ture 2 and the pre­da­tion film have been pub­lished, and di­gested, and then for­mu­late a uni­fied plan of ac­tion. And then wait un­til the lakes and rivers are frozen over, be­cause the ma­jor­ity of an­glers pri­ori­tise fish­ing over cam­paign­ing, how­ever great the cause.

The Beast from the East is be­hind us, my koi carp are stir­ring, Man­grove and Birch Grove work par­ties are a heart­beat away, and I take my hat off to the diehards who have bat­tled on through the win­ter in pur­suit of our beloved carp and whose pic­tures have kept the Carp-talk fea­ture com­pil­ers busy through­out the cold months. And while I am pay­ing trib­ute to them I will also praise my col­leagues on the PAG board, who know what a tough job we have on our hands, and stick with it through thick and thin. They are chair­man Tony Gib­son, sec­re­tary Mike Heylin OBE, vicechair Derek Strit­ton, Bev Clif­ford, Chris Burt, Chris Cur­rie, Chris Evans, Mark Holmes, Mark She­ward, Miles Carter, David Lit­tle, Tim Small and Marsh Prat­ley – who most of you will know is ter­mi­nally ill. Our thoughts are with Marsh – his con­tri­bu­tion to carp and spe­cial­ist an­gling has been im­mense. Thanks also to Pip Dean who has kept the PAG en­gine run­ning since its in­cep­tion, and is still con­tribut­ing while the seat of power is re­lo­cated. The in­put from all these peo­ple, and some who have been and gone, has given the PAG a strong base for mean­ing­ful ac­tion, which is be­ing taken. A suc­cess­ful out­come may be some years away, but that is no rea­son for not try­ing, or not get­ting in­volved in the first place.

There was an­other com­ment from the Gov­ern­ment quoted in Carp-talk 1215 which re­ally stirred anger in many of us: ‘An­glers were also re­minded that due to the le­gal pro­tec­tion of ot­ters any­one who in­jures, kills, dis­turbs or al­ters their liv­ing quar­ters is sub­ject to pros­e­cu­tion.’ Roughly trans­lated that means ‘We’ll hold you down, and kick you while you’re down.’ Check out the pic­tures of ot­ter-pre­dated dy­ing carp breath­ing their last on the ’net and re­flect that un­der no cir­cum­stance can you do any­thing to pre­vent that hap­pen­ing, what­ever the species and how­ever valu­able the fish, other than fence 0.1% of our wa­ter­ways.

Thanks for lis­ten­ing, but be warned. Pre­da­tion of still-wa­ters tends to ease at this time of year (when ot­ters trans­fer their at­ten­tions to small mam­mals and birdlife), but it is likely to be worse than ever next win­ter, and early spring. Legally all you can do is pro­tect your wa­ter(s) to the best of your abil­ity which, as things stand, means fenc­ing them, if pos­si­ble, or pa­trolling them. We share the Bar­bel So­ci­ety’s frus­tra­tion over all those wa­ters which can’t be fenced, which means about 99.9% of the coun­try’s wa­ter­ways. Preda­tors are over-pro­tected. We are work­ing on it, and ap­pre­ci­ate all the sup­port that is com­ing our way, and there is a great deal of that. We have a fight on our hands: help us fight it.

Hope is not the con­vic­tion that some­thing will turn out well, but the cer­tainty that some­thing makes sense re­gard­less of how it turns out - Vá­clav Havel

“If you are im­pa­tient and think there is an overnight fix to pre­da­tion, the Gov­ern­ment state­ment quoted ear­lier is dis­cour­ag­ing”

BE­LOW 30,000 cor­morants (An­gling Trust fig­ure) and 12,000 goosanders (RSPB fig­ure) are over­win­ter­ing on our wa­ter­ways. They re­quire 1lb of fish each, per day, to sus­tain them

ABOVE The first to take on pre­da­tion is­sues was Martin Read (left), ably as­sisted by then-mp Martin Sal­ter (right) in the Houses of Par­lia­ment in his ef­forts

BE­LOW BOT­TOM David Hat­ter’s cam­era­man John Dun­ford (left), known to us through the good of­fices of Ian Chill­cott, pic­tured film­ing on the Man­grove a few years back

BE­LOW LEFT John Wil­son was one of the first to see, or at least pub­li­cise, the big­ger pre­da­tion pic­ture. This is John point­ing the way at Five Lakes around the time of the for­ma­tion of the PAG. Few peo­ple were con­vinced at the time BE­LOW TOP PAG chair­man Tony Gib­son, pic­tured here with the Trav­eller – al­ready show­ing the at­ten­tions of ot­ters at that time – was one of the first to be con­vinced that ot­ters were killing big bar­bel

ABOVE The for­ma­tion of the An­gling Trust has long in­trigued me, be­cause what­ever the think­ing was be­hind its orig­i­nal for­ma­tion it clearly didn’t work out

BE­LOW The Avon Val­ley Roach Project’s con­cern re­gard­ing pre­da­tion re­sulted in a 16,000-plus sig­na­ture pe­ti­tion be­ing pre­sented to the Gov­ern­ment, at­tended by a num­ber of lu­mi­nar­ies

ABOVE LEFT The ap­proach from the bar­bel guys at last year’s NAS was so en­cour­ag­ing that the PAG ar­ranged a meet­ing of po­ten­tial group and an­gling body sup­port­ers for last Novem­ber. We need uni­fi­ca­tion in our ef­forts to con­vince the au­thor­i­ties of the ex­tent of the pre­da­tion prob­lem

ABOVE RIGHT Trout farms are heav­ily pre­dated by cor­morants and ot­ters. Pic­ture courtesy of Tim Small, pro­pri­etor of the Lech­lade Trout Farm and strong PAG sup­porter

ABOVE BOT­TOM PAG sec­re­tary Mike Heylin OBE, tire­less worker on be­half of an­gling. A spe­cial­ist an­gler, as is for­mer Dren­nan Cup win­ner, chair­man Tony Gib­son

ABOVE TOP Thank­fully Man­grove and Birch Grove work par­ties are just a heart­beat away

ABOVE IMAGES WE ARE ALL FA­MIL­IAR WITH THESE SHOTS OF DEAD, OT­TER-PRE­DATED fish. Film on so­cial me­dia and in the PAG footage shows that they SLOWLY DIE FROM THESE IN­JURIES. WHAT ARE WE SUP­POSED TO DO, stand by and watch this hap­pen? What we didn’t know is that the pres­ence of an ot­ter on a trout farm can cause nu­mer­ous deaths by heart fail­ure

BE­LOW PUB­LIC EN­EMY NUM­BER ONE AS FAR AS BIG fish AN­GLERS ARE con­cerned, but there is sim­ply not enough nat­u­ral prey to keep all our over-pro­tected preda­tors happy

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