The Angling Trust has written to Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon MP asking him to to reduce the red tape tangling up the process for applying for a licence to control fish-eating birds, which cause untold damage the UK’s £3.5 billion angling industry. Many angling clubs and fisheries which have been in existence for generations are struggling to survive, putting at risk vital direct and indirect rural employment. Without adequate fish stocks, their rivers or lakes cease to attract visiting and local anglers.
In the letter, which is available for download HERE, angling’s representative body described the problems with the current system for licensing control of cormorants, goosanders and mergansers, which is administered by Natural England. The system currently includes the following features:
- Applicants have to complete a 3,000 word, 9 page form to apply for a licence to shoot birds which can put them out of business;
- Applicants are asked to detail any ancient monuments near their fishery;
- Fisheries with more than 60 cormorants perched in nearby trees have been granted a licence to shoot just 2 birds a year;
- There is a ban on shooting birds after 15th April, when they do most damage to salmon and sea trout smolts during May and June;
- Unnecessary visits from Natural England staff are made to fisheries, which are expensive for the public purse and time-wasting for rural businesses;
- Applications are only granted after serious damage has occurred – reactively rather than proactively – when businesses are already suffering;
- The national upper limit of licences has been frozen despite reports that the population of cormorants, goosanders and mergansers are all increasing;
The Angling Trust has called on the Minister to make four changes to the licensing process so that angling clubs and fisheries, which employ thousands of people in rural areas, can more easily defend their businesses and fish stocks and help contribute to the economic recovery:
- Make it possible for fishery managers to control birds all year round to protect their fisheries when they are most vulnerable;
- Remove the requirements for fishery managers to consult with Natural England staff and to detail the proximity of ancient monuments etc. in their applications;
- Remove the requirement for evidence of damage and allow preventative control, rather than after the stock has been eaten;
- Apply, as other countries have, for derogations from limits on the number of birds which can be shot each year.
The Angling Trust will be raising these and other issues with the Minister personally at an Angling Summit planned for January 2011.