The Predation Action Group – Who, What and Why?
Due to ever increasing predation related pressures, the balance of nature on our UK freshwater environments and the sport of angling are under threat.
The ongoing spread of imported signal crayfish means that fish’s food sources are being depleted and their spawn and small fry preyed upon in both rivers and lakes. The seas are being stripped of fish, a phenomenon adding to the increasing numbers of cormorants using freshwater habitats for their prey. The effect of cormorant predation on inland fisheries is well documented, with John Wilson rationalising that they account for up to 58,000,000 irreplaceable small fish per annum. A population explosion of mink, many illegally released from mink farms, are damaging large numbers of fish in many parts of the UK and the increasing numbers of overwintering goosanders and other fish-eating birds are also making a serious impact on fish stocks in some areas.
Against this background of increasing small to medium sized fish predation, in the early-’70s a programme was put in place to rear otters in captivity and reintroduce them to the wild. The EA Otter Survey of 2010 reveals that the spread of otters has been far- reaching and that they were well established virtually everywhere, with more recent studies indicating a total coverage throughout the UK. Because of the huge impact of signal crayfish, cormorants, mink, goosanders and other fish-eating predators on the small fish food chain, the result of otters targeting the larger fish has resulted in alarming impacts on overall fish populations, with a particularly noticeable impact on specimen fish in both rivers and stillwaters. In some river systems otters have depleted
the majority of the specimen barbel populations, and have been responsible for serious damage to, and the destruction of, an increasing number of carp fisheries. Fishery owners, managers and fish farmers are in a difficult position when it comes to protecting their interests and livelihoods because of the protected status of both otters and cormorants. The relevant authorities are generally in denial over these predation issues. Notwithstanding the fact that we spend over £25,000,000 per annum on licences, anglers still appear to be treated as the poor relations compared to other countryside interest related users and organisations.
The PAG committee was originally formed to research and report on the effects of predation on freshwater fisheries and angling in Great Britain and to put together a convincing case for some measure of control on the types of predation highlighted above. In the first instance, the PAG reported their evidence and research to the Angling Trust. Although the Angling Trust was formed to look after all angler’s interests, for various reasons, many of the issues highlighted by the PAG have not resulted in the desired response in terms of an awareness of the true impact of the problems being highlighted to the appropriate government bodies and a plan for appropriate mitigating action. Therefore, the PAG feel it is necessary to continue to research and highlight the
various predation issues, to look at ways to use existing legislation to offer fishery owners and managers a means of protecting their assets and to lobby the government direct on some of these issues.
All of the activities that the PAG are currently undertaking are both time consuming and require funding of some sort. While the majority of the committee’s work on behalf of the PAG is voluntary, some areas of research, reporting and awareness highlighting and
media presence/output require additional funding. Direct lobbying of government needs to be done correctly and is an expensive undertaking. All of this means the PAG needs funds, as we continue to research and highlight the true nature of these issues and to look at various ways to provide appropriate protection for our freshwater environments and the associated sporting activities we want to be able to continue undertaking in years to come.