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Government sanctions cormorant cull to appease anglers (1 Viewer)

Chris Monk

Well-known member
Press release from the RSPB:

Thursday 16 September, 2004

Government sanctions cormorant cull to appease anglers

More cormorants are to be killed in England after the government
today introduced a shoot-to-kill policy, claiming it is preserving
freshwater fish for anglers.

The RSPB, which has more than one million members, has sought legal
advice on the action it can take to force government to reverse its
decision, and a 'letter before claim' to quash the decision will be issued to
government shortly.

Nature Conservation Minister Ben Bradshaw has said that the annual
limit for killing cormorants will be increased from the current 500 to 3,000
birds - around 20 per cent of the English population - per annum for two

Licences to shoot cormorants are currently only issued to scare
birds from the few fisheries where serious damage has occurred. In each case, the person seeking the licence has to demonstrate serious damage, and that non-lethal measures have failed.

The new policy is positively aimed at actively reducing the cormorant
population. For the first time, fisheries owners will not have to
demonstrate that cormorants are damaging their stocks.

Dr Mark Avery, Director of Conservation at the RSPB, said: "This snap
decision by the minister ignores the advice of his own scientists
and caves in to pressure from anglers. We believe that this shoot to kill
policy is contrary to bird conservation law and we are determined to get the
decision reversed.

"The government's own research shows that cormorants have a
negligible impact on fish populations nationally and that any local problems
can be reduced by non lethal means. Studies commissioned by Defra on fish
shelters on still water fisheries shows these refuges can reduce cormorant
predation by up to 86 per cent.

"The new policy will simply not work; other cormorants will replace
those killed. Making sites unattractive to cormorants or scaring then off
are much more effective means of reducing any impact on fisheries."

For further information and to arrange an interview, please contact:
Grahame Madge, RSPB press officer, on 01767 681577.
Out of hours, please telephone: 07702 196902 (mobile)
Editor's notes:
1. The cormorant population has increased since the 1970s,
though the rate has slowed during the 1990s and 2000s. Of around
3,100 pairs nesting in England, around 1,500 pairs nest inland. The latest
Wetland Bird Survey 2001 shows that around 16,000 cormorants winter
in Great Britain. Numbers of both wintering and breeding birds have
stabilised in recent years. They are naturally birds of salt and freshwaters.

2. Cormorants are included on the Amber list of Birds of
Conservation Concern. This is due to the breeding population being
concentrated on a relatively small number of sites, and the fact
that the UK supports over 20 per cent of the European wintering population. The UK therefore has a clear international responsibility to conserve its
population of cormorants.

3. The cormorant is protected under the European Union Birds
Directive 79/409. Derogations are allowed under strict
circumstances and conditions, where there is no other satisfactory solution, to prevent serious damage to crops, livestock, forests, fisheries and water.
The application of such derogations may not lead to deterioration in the
present conservation status of birds covered by the Directive.

4. In England and Wales, cormorants are protected under the
Wildlife and Countryside Act (WCA) 1981 as amended, which implements
the EU Birds Directive. The WCA makes provision for killing or taking
birds under licence for the purpose of preventing serious damage to fisheries,
where there is no other satisfactory solution.

5. Defra's existing guidance states that a licence may be
granted to allow the shooting of a limited number of cormorants to
reinforce the effects of scaring measures being carried out at a site.
Licences will only be issued where:
- there is clear evidence that serious damage is being caused by
cormorants, or on recent past evidence, that it is likely to occur
- other non-lethal measures have been found to be ineffective or
- other factors are not likely to be responsible for the serious
- shooting will be successful in reducing the damage, and
- there is no other satisfactory solution.

6. Between 1996/97 and 2001/02, between 366 and 545 individual
licences were issued per annum by Defra. The most birds shot in any
one year was 225 (in 2001/02), demonstrating that not all licences are
carried out.

7. In the early 1990s, Government spent ý1 million on a
research programme examining techniques for managing cormorant
predation at fisheries. Since 2000, a further £0.5 million has been spent on
research into fish refuges.
These and other government-commissioned research projects have
shown that:
- Cormorants do not cause a general widespread problem to
- The proportion of fish removed from lakes or rivers by
cormorants varies significantly; even sites with high levels of predation do not
usually experience low catches or declining fish stocks. At sites
where there was perceived to be a problem, e.g Holme Pierrepoint, in
Nottinghamshire, studies did not show cormorant predation to be a
- Providing underwater refuges for fish can reduce cormorant
predation by up to 86%.
- There is no proof that killing is more effective at reducing
the number of cormorants than simply scaring them. Regular human
disturbance was found to be consistently effective in reducing bird numbers.
- Fish stock management (stocking fish of a larger size in
fishing lakes) has been shown to successfully reduce cormorant predation in
Grafham Water and Rutland Water.

8. In the winter of 1996/7, 6,000 cormorants were shot in
Bavaria for the same reason but within a year, numbers had returned
to pre-cull levels.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
* The Lodge * Sandy * Beds SG19 2DL
Press office telephone 01767 681577

Registered charity no 207076

Grahame Madge
Media Officer, Conservation PR
RSPB, The Lodge, Sandy, Beds SG19 2DL
Telephone: +44 (0) 1767 681577
Fax: +44 (0) 1767 681284
Mobile and out of hours contact: 07702 196902
Pager: 07654 344078

The RSPB is a UK charity working to secure a healthy environment for
birds and wildlife, helping create a better world for us all.
Wow! What's next- seals? otters? How about those nasty divers? I hope your local "green movement" is as vocal there as they are in B.C.
er...haven't read all that

Ben Bradshaw, reckoned he was given a bit of grief by a Cormorant outside his house one day.......? This was reported on Today (R4) ....er today

will endeavour to read it all thanks Chris.
Ben bradshaw is actually one of the bright young things in this govt ! Does n'y mean he is right about this tho...will try and find out whats behind this.....
the angling lobby has been very vocalabout Cormerants for ages....
Ranworth Inner Broad in Norfolk is virtually devoid of fish life (and hence piscivorous mammals and birds) because of the eutrophication of the water by an increasingly large number of roosting Cormorants. Why do people get more concerned about Cormorants (which have been driven inland by over-exploitation of marine fish stocks) but NOT about Britain's wild fish stocks? Quoting Rutland Water as an exemplar is RUBBISH! We are NOT talking about wild fish here, but rather stock-pond bred alien Rainbow Trout Our native river fish are being predated to extinction by Cormorants! Some of you guys seem to display chronic dual standards! It's OK to carry out a probably pointless cull on Ruddy Ducks (an attractive and generally loved species) on the grounds that this MAY be of significance in preventing hybridisation of a duck species which constitutes a relict population on the edge of its range to appease a people who still barborously throw donkeys out of church towers and who continue the indefensible practice of bull fighting. The rise in Cormorant roost numbers in East Anglia (which I DO know about!) has been a significant feature in the depletion of freshwater fish stocks. I have seen flocks of Cormorants feeding as far upstream on the Bure as Horstead, the Ant at Wayford Bridge, the Yare at South Harford..........Thirty years ago, when I first began walking these upper rivers, Cormorants were never seen. Kingfishers were. Little Grebes were. Herons were. Not now.......Just bl**dy Cormorants!
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"Why do people get more concerned about Cormorants (which have been driven inland by over-exploitation of marine fish stocks) but NOT about Britain's wild fish stocks?"

I thought the increase in numbers of inland Cormorants was the result of range expansion by continental (fresh water) sinensis birds rather than a move inland by more coastal nominate carbo. Is this not the case?

godwit said:
"I thought the increase in numbers of inland Cormorants was the result of range expansion by continental (fresh water) sinensis birds rather than a move inland by more coastal nominate carbo. Is this not the case?

And the cause of this range expansion? In any case, it doesn't matter to our Roach Eels and Bream which race of Cormorant is eating them!
"Our native river fish are being predated to extinction by Cormorants!"

What evidence (apart from the usual anecdotal claptrap) to you have to support this wild allegation which seems to run counter to the results of £1.5m worth of research on the topic of cormorants impact on fish stocks. It is not in the nature of any population to reduce its food source to zero, that would be ecological folly.

"And the cause of this range expansion?"

An abundance of fish reared and maintained by the angling fraternity.

godwit said:
"Our native river fish are being predated to extinction by Cormorants!"
You are a very rude person! You are happy to accept the 'anecdotal evidence' from the sources that support YOUR contention, but refute or ignore that from the various Anglers' Consultative Committees and National Federations who have also spent large sums researching this! How glibly you dismiss the TOTAL depletion of small fish stocks in the North Sea (sprats, smelt, sand-eels) as the REAL reason for inland encroachment by gulls and Cormorants. This depletion has furthermore been identified by the RSPB among others as the fundamental cause for the decline in many littoral bird species such as terns and auks.Of course Cormorants also take advantage of continental 'stew ponds' but that has NO relevance to a discussion of the OBSERVABLE and WELL-DOCUMENTED depletion of small river fish, any more than the stocking of 'larger farm-reared fish into Rutland and Grafham Waters' or the risable advocation of 'refuge areas' Ranworth Inner Broad IS a refuge area, but one that is now devoid of fish!
Evidence mounts against cormorants
Birds are big predators in northern Lake Huron
April 8, 2004


Detroit Free Press:

Anglers have been complaining for years that a burgeoning cormorant population on the Great Lakes is destroying perch and smallmouth bass stocks. Now they have support from research scientists.

Preliminary analysis of a 20-year study on Lake Ontario shows the goose-sized diving birds are decimating inshore fish the size of perch and young bass and competing for food with salmonids and walleyes. Changing water conditions also have made cormorants more efficient Great Lakes predators than 20 years ago, and they have become a major predator in northern Lake Huron.

Songbird Survival Group:
Non-anglers may be surprised to learn that BBC1 TV's Countryfile programme on Sunday, December 1st 2002 included an item on predation by cormorants, in which Martin Reed, a Fisheries Manager, stated that it costs a whopping £10 per lb. to replace these species of fish. This figure enables the following calculation to be made:-

Daily Weight of Fish Consumed Replacement Value of Fish Consumed

Cost Daily Annually
500 grams (1lb) £10 per lb £10 £3,650

700 grams (1.5lb) £10 per lb £15 £5,475


And if 75% of the UK's estimated 25,000 cormorant population spends its time feeding solely on freshwater fish, the annual cost to anglers and fishery owners becomes:-

At 500 grams (1lb) per day
18,750 cormorants @ £3,650 per annum = £68,347,500 (OVER £68 MILLION)

At 700 grams (1.5lb) per day
18,750 cormorants @ £5,475 per annum = £102,656,250 (OVER £102 MILLION)

Extract from a Report by the Federation of European Anglers:
One of the other most significant statements in the report is that two subspecies of cormorant occur in Europe. The race Phalacrocorax carbo carbo is primarily a marine species, breeding on rocky coasts from north-west France, through sites in the UK, to northern Norway and the White Sea. Quite distinct from this is the race Phalacrocorax carbo sinensis, which inhabits mainly freshwater and nests in trees and unlike its cousin, is concentrated in the western Baltic and central Europe eastwards to China and Japan. In addition the report quotes a survey carried out in 1977, which shows the distribution of the two types to be clearly seperate, (see map), and demonstrates that UK populations, as anglers have consistently claimed, lived at that time on the coast and not inland. In case anyone missed the point let me repeat. In 1977 we had two seperate species of cormorant, our own seaside bird in the UK, and a foreign freshwater species in Europe, which lived inland. Unfortunately although the European bird is a little smaller, the two types are almost indistinguishable to the eye, and so we mere anglers would be unable to tell the difference. After all a cormorant is a cormorant. Isn't it? The big change for both species of cormorants came in 1979/81, when their numbers began to rise steeply both in the UK and across Europe. Now let's forget the silly arguments about commercial fisheries, exploiting new resources etc. etc. being instrumental in increasing cormorant numbers, quite simply their numbers increased, as they were supposed to do, because of the protection afforded by the European Directive and the Wildlife and Countryside Act. i.e. the birds were no longer being persecuted! And did their numbers increase. (One could present a similar case perhaps for magpies which now frequent our gardens in numbers, instead of sparrows and the like, but that's a different story) So back to the numbers, in the Netherlands the European species increased in numbers by 10% from 1978 to 1992, in Denmark it was 24% and in Germany 30%. In Sweden the number of breeding pairs rose from less than 1000 to more than 8000, in the then East Germany from less than 1000 to 7000, and in Poland from 1000 to 8000. In the Czech Republic and Slovakia the numbers rose from almost zero to 7000 pairs! In the UK the situation was very similar, with numbers at wintering sites, increasing from 12 to 25%, the latter at gravel pits. And this increase in numbers inland was attributed by the report to be, in part at least, to the immigration of the European freshwater species!! Now doesn't this give a new and more accurate perspective of the situation we now see today. Here we have a species of cormorant, which was not native to the UK, but was thought to be endangered in Europe, increasing in numbers dramatically, to such an extent that even back in 1995 there were 150,000 breeding pairs around

All anecdotal?
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""Our native river fish are being predated to extinction by Cormorants!"

It hardly seems worth trying to debate a point with someone who is unable to distinguish his own quotes from those of his opponent!

Have you tried to abstract any real sense from the numeric waffle in your last post or tried to conceive of the motivation or knowledge base of the authors (for a start one of them clearly labours under the misapprehension that there are two species of Cormorant at large and seems to think that an increase in numbers from 12% to 25% actually means something!). Numbers of Cormorants will ebb and flow in response to the amount of food available, all the evidence of increased Cormorant numbers shows is that thre must be more fish for them to eat!

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Just noticed that one of your sources is the notorious Songbird Survival Group. You might want to look into their agenda before choosing them as allies!

Whoo ooo

Songbird Survival Alert :eek!:


are these points as correct as your Ruddy Duck transatlantic vagrant points?

you'll need to back them up with refs or I won't believe it for one......

Songbird Survival is Mickey Mouse

The second ref is well weird - did they really write all that without any paragraphing at all......certainly wouldn't get past the OBC Editor..... ;)
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Godwit, don't bother trying to "debate" this one, because there's nothing to debate: the facts (not "anecdotal claptrap") are there for all to see, the world over.

Fact: cormorants predate inland fish stocks to the extent that they ruin waters from an angling point of view (I write as someone with first hand evidence).

I don't blame cormorants for acting as nature intended, but I sure as hell reserve the right not to like it.

You can't really think that the long term balancing act that nature works on the predator/prey relationship is some sort of sop for the damage these birds can do in the short term, can you?

Re: the "Songbird Survival Group" quote - that was taken directly from a BBC Countryfile broadcast on the topic.

Does that still make it worthless? Because from my experience, that program reflected exactly what's happening.

The least accurate quote I've seen so far in this thread is the RSPB's, which actively implies that anglers throughout the country will be blasting away at any cormorant they see (a triumph of tabloid journalism, if you ask me).

It's bollocks.

There will be rigorous, strictly enforced controls over shooting, and licences will only be granted where anglers can provide clear and unequivocal proof of the damage being done by cormorants (which I suspect you've already decided doesn't exist, so why worry?)

And it will only be allowed on specific waters, in response to specific, demonstrable problems.

(Just pretend they're ruddy ducks - your blood pressure will thank you for it).
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"Fact: cormorants predate inland fish stocks to the extent that they ruin waters from an angling point of view (I write as someone with first hand evidence)."

Fact: shooting Cormorants is not the solution to this problem as has clearly been demonstrated by government research (see the first post). Providing underwater refuges and/or putting in place some system to discourage Cormorants is the best solution.

"You can't really think that the long term balancing act that nature works on the predator/prey relationship is some sort of sop for the damage these birds can do in the short term, can you?"


well, as with the Ruddy Duck 'argument' which is surely now dead and buried in the water (along with the ducks!) there will be a lot of anecdotal 'evidence' in this thread too. I know where i put my trust. I haven't read enough yet but unlike the opponents of the Ruddy Cull i am prepared to admit this and do some work before i formulate an opinion........ Trouble is the RSPB do a LOT of research and publish it..... alot of the counter 'science' is very poor quality indeed and does not appear in peer-reviewed journals etc......... e.g. Songbird ha ha ha Survival....never knew Cormorants were songbirds?!?!
"You can't really think that the long term balancing act that nature works on the predator/prey relationship is some sort of sop for the damage these birds can do in the short term, can you?"

Aye...that's how it works
"Re: the "Songbird Survival Group" quote - that was taken directly from a BBC Countryfile broadcast on the topic."

So secondhand data from a gang of nutters with a twisted agenda counts as good evidence does it?

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