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Cormorants - A license to Kill

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Old Saturday 21st May 2005, 09:31   #1
David Pedder
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Cormorants - A license to Kill

Many of you will have no doubt read this in the latest edition of “Birds” magazine but I thought I would post it here for those who haven’t. The more of us who help the RSPB with this campaign the better.

“The RSPB is outraged to learn that the Government has licensed the killing of more than 1,500 cormorants in England. This follows a radical shift in Government policy, which makes it easier for fisheries owners to get a licence to cull cormorants, as we reported in the Spring issue of “Birds”.

Intense lobbying by RSPB staff and members resulted in the Government’s correcting some of the more serious flaws in its original policy. We were relieved to learn that the stated aim of reducing the UK cormorant population had been removed, and that the seriousness of any problem caused by cormorants must be considered before a license can be issued - the mere presence of birds in an area is no longer sufficient reason to kill them. However, there is still no requirement to provide detailed evidence that cormorants are damaging the economic interests of a fishery, and the number licensed to be killed has continued to increase.

We are concerned that the number of cormorants licensed to be killed may reach 3000 this year. While 17,000 cormorants spend the Winter in England, only around 2,900 pairs stay to nest - the rest return to the continent. The effect of licensed killing on English breeding birds has not been properly assessed. We are concerned that killing may extend into the breeding season, causing the death of dependant chicks in nests and increasing the total number of birds that may die as a result of the Government’s policy

We are continuing to challenge the Government to improve the science behind its policy and find out if licensed killing will threaten the cormorant’s conservation status. We want to see the licensing system made more transparent so we can be sure that licences are not being issued needlessly or illegally.”

If you would like to help the RSPB with their campaign, please email [email protected] or telephone their campaigns department on 01767 680551
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Old Saturday 21st May 2005, 21:20   #2
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What kind of detailed evidence would you like?. Counting fish is rather difficult, unless you drain a lake!.

Licenses have been issued for up to 10 birds per license in past years.
How many licenses have been issued in previous years?.
How many Cormorants have been reported as being killed in previous years?.
How many do the RSPB think have been killed?.

Whats "actually" really changed this last year, against previous years?.

I think you'll find that killing Cormorants is easier said than done!.

I have asked lots of questions there in reply, and I do not know the answers!, but I do know that the answers are readily available from the EA, so assume you already have them!.

From an EX angler and a birder!
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Old Sunday 22nd May 2005, 08:44   #3
Anthony Morton
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Double Standards?

How the RSPB can possibly campaign against the controlled culling of a limited number of cormorants under strict license conditions already approved by the Environment Agency beats me.

What about the whole variety of other species, such as foxes, deer, crows, gulls, stoats, weasels, mink and feral cats, it controls (kills) on the land it manages?

This is a clear-cut case of double standards in my opinon!
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Old Sunday 22nd May 2005, 09:09   #4
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"How the RSPB can possibly campaign against the controlled culling of a limited number of cormorants under strict license conditions already approved by the Environment Agency beats me."



Got to be seen in the eyes of the members, to be doing the "right" thing. The Protection of Birds thing, that is!!



There is a European wide drive to reduce the numbers of Cormorants on inland waters.

So why should the UK be any different??





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Malky

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Old Sunday 22nd May 2005, 10:03   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Anthony Morton
How the RSPB can possibly campaign against the controlled culling of a limited number of cormorants under strict license conditions already approved by the Environment Agency beats me.

What about the whole variety of other species, such as foxes, deer, crows, gulls, stoats, weasels, mink and feral cats, it controls (kills) on the land it manages?

This is a clear-cut case of double standards in my opinon!
They aren't campaigning against controlled culling. They are campaigning to make sure licences are not issued illegally or needlessly and for proper assessment of the effects of culling on British breeding birds.

Alcedo.atthis, Strange that the RSPB is doing the "Protection of birds thing". I always understood that was its purpose!??
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Old Sunday 22nd May 2005, 10:08   #6
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I don't see what was wrong with the old system. The new system is totally unworkable and although 1500 licenses have already been granted (remember that this only came in a few months ago), DEFRA have no way of ensuring the numbe of birds stays within the quota (variously quoted at 2,000 or 3,000). It drives me to despair because Bradshaw was clearly sending out the message that angling was not next on the list yet this has made angling an easy target for the anti-bloodsport people. I have every intention of returning to angling when I retire and have more time but I am not even sure if the sport will still exist in 20 years time.

Malky - it is not the control aspect that is the problem but the level and I already know of instances where this is being used as a cover to shoot other fish-eating birds. I said this would happen in a debate with AM some months ago because people are so bl**dy predictable.

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Old Sunday 22nd May 2005, 10:44   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Pedder
They aren't campaigning against controlled culling. They are campaigning to make sure licences are not issued illegally or needlessly and for proper assessment of the effects of culling on British breeding birds.

David,

How can licenses be 'issued illegally' as you suggest? It is the sole responsibility of The Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) to issue these licenses AND monitor the results - but only then after a number of other criteria have been satisfied first.

Where the UK's cormorant population is concerned, I'm not sure the RSPB knows what it is campaigning about. For example, in the RSPB statement contained in your original posting, it claims that 17,000 cormorants spend the winter in England, while the Environment Agency state that about 23,000 over-winter in the UK. But where the RSPB claims only 2,900 pairs nest in England, the EA suggests that around 9,000 pairs of cormorants breed in the UK. These figures are poles apart.

This sounds to me like a case of the RSPB deliberately under-stating the figures to its own advantage. I for one would have much more faith in its utterances if it adopted a level playing field approach instead of constantly muddying the waters!

Anthony
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Old Sunday 22nd May 2005, 12:06   #8
David Pedder
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Anthony Morton
David,

How can licenses be 'issued illegally' as you suggest? It is the sole responsibility of The Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) to issue these licenses AND monitor the results - but only then after a number of other criteria have been satisfied first.

Where the UK's cormorant population is concerned, I'm not sure the RSPB knows what it is campaigning about. For example, in the RSPB statement contained in your original posting, it claims that 17,000 cormorants spend the winter in England, while the Environment Agency state that about 23,000 over-winter in the UK. But where the RSPB claims only 2,900 pairs nest in England, the EA suggests that around 9,000 pairs of cormorants breed in the UK. These figures are poles apart.

This sounds to me like a case of the RSPB deliberately under-stating the figures to its own advantage. I for one would have much more faith in its utterances if it adopted a level playing field approach instead of constantly muddying the waters!

Anthony
Thanks for pointing out the discrepancy in population numbers which I was hitherto unaware of and are of great interest.

As for illegal licences, I have no informed answer, Anthony, other than to say that I think it may be naive to assume that simply because a specific agency or agencies have the sole right to issue licences that alone would automatically preclude the existance of illegal documents. I’m probably wrong. I hope so!

Last edited by David Pedder : Monday 23rd May 2005 at 07:20.
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Old Sunday 22nd May 2005, 12:39   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Anthony Morton
For example, in the RSPB statement contained in your original posting, it claims that 17,000 cormorants spend the winter in England, while the Environment Agency state that about 23,000 over-winter in the UK. But where the RSPB claims only 2,900 pairs nest in England, the EA suggests that around 9,000 pairs of cormorants breed in the UK. These figures are poles apart.

This sounds to me like a case of the RSPB deliberately under-stating the figures to its own advantage. I for one would have much more faith in its utterances if it adopted a level playing field approach instead of constantly muddying the waters!

Anthony
Sounds like you are mixing up England with the UK again, Anthony.

Andy.
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Old Monday 23rd May 2005, 06:38   #10
Anthony Morton
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andrew Rowlands
Sounds like you are mixing up England with the UK again, Anthony.

Andy.


Wouldn't you be better asking the RSPB why it finds it impossible to compare like with like when discussing cormorant population figures? For example, why does it insist on using figures for just England which immediately make any direct comparison with the EA's UK-wide figure impossible? I believe there can only be one reason for this, the RSPB is deliberately trying to under-state the cormorant population to suit its own ends. In other words, it's a manufactured shortage caused by creative accountancy.

For confirmation of this, we need look no further than the respective EA/RSPB estimates for breeding pairs. According to the RSPB, there are just 2,900 in England, yet the EA states that there are 9,000 (three times as many!) in the UK and that figure is probably an under-estimate by now. However, even if we assume the RSPB's figure is correct for a moment, this indicates that only one-third of the UK's total breeding pairs of cormorants live in England. By extension this means that two-thirds must live OUTSIDE England, i.e. in Wales and Scotland. I don't think so!

Without doubt the bulk of the UK's cormorants are to be found in England and many of them on inland freshwater lakes and rivers. If any BF members would like to read a factual account of the effect these cormorants are having on fish stocks, without any added 'spin', the following link may prove useful.

http://www.defra.gov.uk/wildlife-cou...s-strategy.pdf
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Old Monday 23rd May 2005, 09:05   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Anthony Morton
..., this indicates that only one-third of the UK's total breeding pairs of cormorants live in England. By extension this means that two-thirds must live OUTSIDE England, i.e. in Wales and Scotland. I don't think so!
British breeding Cormorants are essentially a coastal breeding species. Scotland has rather a lot of coastline ...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Anthony Morton
Without doubt the bulk of the UK's cormorants are to be found in England and many of them on inland freshwater lakes and rivers.
These aren't the same birds that are breeding in Britain, they are mostly of Continental origin.

If you revisit the earlier Threads on this topic that you have participated in, you will find that this has already been explained to you, Anthony.

Andy.
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Old Monday 23rd May 2005, 09:06   #12
Anthony Morton
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The following comments are taken from Posting # 6 on this thread.

Quote:
I don't see what was wrong with the old system. The new system is totally unworkable and although 1500 licenses have already been granted (remember that this only came in a few months ago), DEFRA have no way of ensuring the numbe of birds stays within the quota (variously quoted at 2,000 or 3,000).
The thing that was wrong with the old system was that any application for a license under it was much too protracted and if/when one was granted, it was often too late, because the damage to fish stocks had already taken place.

I have just spoken to the DEFRA Wildlife Management Team in Bristol and far from believing that the new system is 'totally unworkable' as suggested above, they are completely happy with it. When I asked if 1,500 licenses have really been granted under the new system in just a few months, I was told that it was far fewer than this, as the number of cormorants so far licensed to be culled is only around 1,500 birds in total.

It was then explained to me that when the statistical return is made at the end of the strict license period, it is quite common to find that although a maximum of ten birds were allowed to be culled, only one, or perhaps two, had in fact been shot. There were even cases where none of the quota were culled.

As for the suggestion of over-culling, with potential fines of up to £5,000 per bird it is simply not worth anyone being foolish enough to even attempt to buck the system. After all, just think of all those birders with their bins trained on what's going on.


Quote:
I have every intention of returning to angling when I retire and have more time but I am not even sure if the sport will still exist in 20 years time.
The sport of angling certainly won't exist in 20 years time unless something is done about the increase in cormorant numbers NOW!
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Old Monday 23rd May 2005, 09:22   #13
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Artificially high numbers of trout in the reservoirs where i go birding and the fishermen have the nerve to moan when a predator comes along and takes some. do they really expect them to leave them alone.

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Old Monday 23rd May 2005, 09:34   #14
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Well argued, Anthony - your every word's a good 'un.
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Old Monday 23rd May 2005, 09:38   #15
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SG, trout - and any other fish in UK waters - are effectively "livestock" in a legal sense, and they belong to somebody.

Even if for no other reason, it should be acceptable for riparian owners to take whatever (in truth extremely minimal) action is deemed necessary to protect their property.
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Old Monday 23rd May 2005, 10:25   #16
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Andrew,

You really are becoming even more predictable than a pike in a tankful of goldfish. As a BF moderator, shouldn't you perhaps be just a little bit more impartial? I do hope you won't mind me asking, but are you by any chance an employee of the RSPB?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Andrew Rowlands
British breeding Cormorants are essentially a coastal breeding species. Scotland has rather a lot of coastline ...

These aren't the same birds that are breeding in Britain, they are mostly of Continental origin.

If you revisit the earlier Threads on this topic that you have participated in, you will find that this has already been explained to you, Anthony.

Andy.

My comments are based on the following. Do you wish to dispute them?

Cormorant facts *

Around 9,000 pairs of cormorants breed in the UK, with about 1650 of them nesting at inland colonies.

About 23,000 birds over-winter with us, a little under half visiting inland rivers and lakes.

Britain has two cormorant sub-species, the birds that live around the coast and an inland race. Since the 1960's some coastal-race cormorants have been choosing to nest inland. Why? Possibly because reservoirs and gravel pits make perfect habitats, prey is scarcer around the coast, or cleaner rivers attract them.

* Extracts taken from the Environment Agency magazine Reel Life.

I do hope that 'Malky' will forgive the pun, but any reference to Scotland in the cormorant culling debate is something of a red herring, since the cull is only taking place in England and Wales.

As for revisting the earlier threads on this topic, I didn't believe many of the comments being bandied about as fact then - and I still don't believe them now. This is especially true of some of the 'statistical information' being put out from supposedly 'informed' sources which doesn't stand up to even the mildest scrutiny.

Anthony
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Old Monday 23rd May 2005, 10:58   #17
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so protect the livestock with sunken cages that fish can escape into but cormorants cant.
Surpose thats to difficult though keith.

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Old Monday 23rd May 2005, 12:25   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Anthony Morton
As for revisting the earlier threads on this topic, I didn't believe many of the comments being bandied about as fact then - and I still don't believe them now. This is especially true of some of the 'statistical information' being put out from supposedly 'informed' sources which doesn't stand up to even the mildest scrutiny.

Anthony
I’m sorry Anthony, I am perhaps viewing this in an over-simplistic way but I can’t honestly understand what you are arguing against here. The facts are:

The RSPB (which I do not represent in any capacity other than that of volunteer) exists, very thankfully, to protect birds. This campaign sets out to attempt to ensure birds are not killed needlessly and to try to assess, scientifically, the impact of licensed culling on the 2,900 or so pairs breeding in England, trying to ensure killings are not carried out in the breeding season and therefore not impacting upon cormorant chicks.

Apologies if I’m missing some crucial point but what is wrong with that?
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Old Monday 23rd May 2005, 13:53   #19
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[quote=Anthony Morton] I believe there can only be one reason for this, the RSPB is deliberately trying to under-state the cormorant population to suit its own ends. In other words, it's a manufactured shortage caused by creative accountancy.

Surley not Anthony the RSPB underestimating numbers I cant believe it they would not stoop so low Seriously though I do wish they would not sometimes juggle the figures to suit their own ends as this leads to mistrust and some degree of scepticism when reading there estimates . I think on the whole that the lads from the lodge do a good job but are sometimes a little to PC . I for one am glad that BF is an independant organisation and hope the rumours of a take over by the RSPB are just that rumours .
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Old Monday 23rd May 2005, 14:12   #20
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I have worked for the RSPB counting breeding bird populations

no-one ever tells me how to do my job

believe me

Tim

having said that i don't have any great problem with a reasonaby selective cull
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Old Monday 23rd May 2005, 16:50   #21
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Hi SG,

Actually that's exactly what most fisheries are doing because you'll find that most anglers don't regard culling as the best solution by a long chalk.

We see the option to cull merely as an additional mechanism which will provides another option for dealing with an acute problem, on a given water, in exceptional circumstances.

The scaremongering from some quarters about this "change" in the policy is just that.

This does not amount to open season on cormorants, and nobody - I repeat, nobody - in the angling community who has looked at this matter properly regards shooting cormorants as a viable long term solution to predation problems, or argues that it is the only realistic option available.

Those that do are wrong. But - exceptionally - it is an option which must be available.

I've seen first hand on waters I was responsible for, just how much damage cormorants can do, and regardless of why they now frequent inland waters, there must be a workable control mechanism to deal with acute predation problems.

We tried fireworks, bird scarers, scarecrows, harris hawks... none worked.

But we chose not to take the culling option because we (the club I chaired and I) were able to soak up the very significant financial impact of the predation, and eventually the cormorants left of their own volition.

Actually, that's only partly true: as they devoured all the smaller fish, we restocked with fish too big for the cormorants to eat.

I think you'll find that most anglers will draw the same line this side of shooting.
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Old Monday 23rd May 2005, 17:18   #22
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Keith - How refreshing to read something that makes complete sense!
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Old Monday 23rd May 2005, 18:00   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Anthony Morton
Andrew,

You really are becoming even more predictable than a pike in a tankful of goldfish. As a BF moderator, shouldn't you perhaps be just a little bit more impartial?
Not that Andrew can't speak for himself, but being one of the BF moderators who has participated in a number of controversial threads, I'd like to point out that being a mod doesn't mean we are without opinions and cannot participate in discussions. Having followed your "debate" tactics for months, I seriously doubt you would have taken Andrew to task for his comments as a moderator had he been agreeing with you.
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Old Monday 23rd May 2005, 18:18   #24
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I think this is ridiculous - killing Cormorant to stop them eating the fish so that we can then catch them. Their numbers cannot outgrow food supply- surely the lakes/rivers etc are cleaner now more than ever and in turn the fish and their food more plentiful also. Perhaps the fishes bellies are full when the anglers come along and that is why they`re not biting. If Cormorant are there then so are fish - if the anglers can`t hook them and are blaming the Cormorant then it sounds to me like bad sportmanship.
Is anyone saying its okay to kill birds of prey that are eating someones racing p*****s/gamebirds ?

Last edited by Andrew Rowlands : Monday 23rd May 2005 at 18:34. Reason: 'Hiding' the 'p' word.
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Old Monday 23rd May 2005, 19:02   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stuart Watson
I think this is ridiculous - killing Cormorant to stop them eating the fish so that we can then catch them. Their numbers cannot outgrow food supply- surely the lakes/rivers etc are cleaner now more than ever and in turn the fish and their food more plentiful also. Perhaps the fishes bellies are full when the anglers come along and that is why they`re not biting. If Cormorant are there then so are fish - if the anglers can`t hook them and are blaming the Cormorant then it sounds to me like bad sportmanship.
Is anyone saying its okay to kill birds of prey that are eating someones racing p*****s/gamebirds ?
I would be quite happy if Cormorants stayed and fed in in rivers, as would most anglers!.
The trouble is they don't, they come, in numbers into quite small still waters which are stocked by anglers, they remove the smaller fish ( up to a pound weight of fish per day, those fish are no longer there to grow on, or to feed the Kingfisher, Grebes, Heron and Terns that the majority of angler love to see. It does come down to money. Fish are very expensive to buy and to stock into a lake!. Anglers pay to catch fish!. No fish, no anglers!.
Fill the lake in and use it as a car park, that of course would cure the Cormorant problem.
http://www.furnacemill.net/page3.html ( A fish of about 3 inch weighs about an ounce )
Unless of course you would wish to buy it?.
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