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Otter friend or foe

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.

 

On one hand, Vagabond, though being on the pro-otter side of the argument, gave a convincing (to me) argument why the supposed evidence that otters don't usually eat fish over 3lb is faulty, in that it was based on the bones they eat and they presumably wouldn't eat the bones of large fish.

 

Would it be fair to say there is a distinct lack of clear evidence for either side?

Thanks John, for a very balanced reply.

 

To me, the argument has never been about how large an individual fish an otter could kill. As others have stated, even the smaller mink will drag a surprisingly large fish out of the water. Any active, aggressive, muscular mammalian predator can tackle prey much larger than itself - so the prey-size issue is a non-argument, the EA "evidence" is ,as I pointed out, skewed.

 

As to the argument about "how many fish are taken", I am irritated by the media-fed tendency to blame every stray carcase, every blank day, on otters. If I remember rightly, attributing the death of the 20lb barbel to otters was vigorously disputed at the time, so referring to an old newspaper article as "proof" is not on. As you say John, no-one has reported even a score of carcases on the river bank at one time..

 

Very big fish are old fish, old fish become weakened, and if not taken by a predator will eventually die and be partly eaten by scavengers as the fish slowly rots away. If seen by an angler at this point, the otter will be blamed.

 

As far as I am concerned, the real argument about otter predation is summed up by Tigger's "does it matter?"

 

We have read lots of emotive accounts - many of which talk of "decimation"

Pin back your ears, would-be "otter cullers" For many of our fisheries, "decimation" would be a damn good thing. "Decimation" means the loss of ten per cent - NOT "nine out of ten" as is popularly supposed.

 

As others have pointed out, that ten per cent loss would include (note for extremists - I said "include" not "consist entirely of") the sick, weak and old fish, ie, those that are easily caught by a predator, not a bad thing at all in the long term.

 

So my response to Tigger's question is "No. It doesn't"

 

Otters have been present in Britain for many thousands of years, yet we still have plenty of fish.

Edited by Vagabond

 

 

RNLI Governor

 

World species 471 : UK species 105 : English species 95 .

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Otters have been present in Britain for many thousands of years, yet we still have plenty of fish.

 

Well said - and even if the temporary absence of otters did mean that some barbel grew freakishly and unnaturally old and large, so what? Fatten some up in a fish tank if that's so important.

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There seems to be a continued inference that otters were released in large numbers all over the UK and that this continues.

This is not the case.

 

The Otter Trust released 117 captive-bred otters between 1983 and 1999, mostly on East

Anglian rivers, but with some elsewhere. Their last release was of 17 otters on the

upper Thames catchment over a six-month period in 1999.

The Vincent Wildlife Trust released a further 49 rehabilitated animals (i.e. orphaned and

injured wild otters kept in captivity until fit for release) between 1990 and 1996, many of

these as part of a release programme in Yorkshire.

By the early 1990s it was clear that a strong natural recovery of otters from their

strongholds in Wales and south-west England meant that reintroductions were no

longer necessary, and by the end of the decade the Otter Trust’s programme was

wound up. Now descendants of the released otters form only a tiny proportion of the

otter population of England, and most wild otters are the result of the natural recovery

of the species after the banning of toxic pesticides. The Environment Agency, Natural England and the Wildlife Trusts concentrated on encouraging natural recovery through improving river habitat, and they continue to do so.


Let's agree to respect each others views, no matter how wrong yours may be.

 

 

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as i said earlier if otters did a really good job in decimating rivers they would have done it long before man appeared to blame them for his interference ,if nature let something eat its own food so much it was decimated the animal in question would long have gone extinct or moved onto something else.

 

otters eat fish its their design to do so the fish are just as rightly their fish as ours in rivers (actually as theyve been here for millions of years longer than us we are the interlopers ;) ),its life and it can be tough to some bits of it

stop annoying otters by catching their fish

 

what next to blame ,theres few otters about to make any real effect ,sea eagles?.......bugger .................ospreys?......bugger ,seals? .........damn it well it looks like its all down to teme man thats the only factor common in it ,blame yourself

 

if you see a mink or otter dragging out anything more than say a quarter of the animals weight you can bet your life theres something wrong with the fish anyway so the otter is "recycling" not decimating.nature says if you expend more energy getting your food than you obtain from it you wither and die

Edited by chesters1

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The fact that Adams Mill on the Ouse was decimated of it's record barbel in a relative short time, at the same time Otters were introduced that is pretty much proof that they had a hand (or paw) in it.

 

The remains of 20lb Barbel were there on the bank, together with a typical Otter wound. I see no reason at all why an adult Otter could not tackle such a fish.

Where did you learn your logic? Correlation does not necessarily equate with causation, (The fact that Adams Mill on the Ouse was decimated of it's record barbel in a relative short time, at the same time Otters were introduced that is pretty much proof that they had a hand (or paw) in it.) and your premise that " I see no reason at all why an adult Otter could not tackle such a fish." is an argument from ignorance. Just because "you can't see why" an otter could not tackle such a fish is not evidence that one could.

The problem isn't what people don't know, it's what they know that just ain't so.
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In truth I guess I would rather have the Otter and perhaps our rivers go back to a more balanced feel,

 

That is the most encouraging thing I have read so far on this thread ! Glad you have reached that conclusion.

 

I think that is what most of us posting here are saying. There is no point in calling for a cull - as I learnt in the days of my youth when shooting grey squirrels at a shilling a tail, culls are not the answer. It made me richer, but made no discernible difference to the squirrel population.

 

Far better, as you say, to let a new natural balance become established between the introduced barbel and the recovering otters.

 

Asking for a cull puts angling in a bad image - and we are not going to get a cull anyway - look at the fuss currently brewing up over badgers and bovine TB

 

When I hear some of the whinges about otter, I think about fishing in Africa, South America and Tropical Australia. There are critters there that not only take fish, but will make a meal of the angler also unless he keeps his wits about him. <_<

 

One thing that I cant remember being mentioned is that the Barbel was not so widespread in the years that the Otter was a naturally found predator on our rivers. You note I wrote naturally, in that it was surviving on a basis of a sufficient food supply that didn't impact on the balance of the river system, But with the re stocking of the Barbel by the Angling Times in the Severn catchment in the 50's saw a rapid colonisation of our rivers.

 

I am old enough to remember that, and even fished the Wye before then (it was stuffed with 2 lb chub - a fish a chuck)

The Hants Avon also had barbel introduced, but they went in before my time.

 

I honestly have felt concern about the barbels domination of our rivers, apparently it's eggs are unpalatable to normal predation, so there has been an explosion in numbers, but at what cost to the other species?

Yes, practically every book on British Freshwater Fish says barbel roe is poisonous - wonder how true that is - any volunteers ? :)

 

So I guess now the Otter is like a kid in a sweet shop and we are seeing the consequence of man's folly with regard to forcing natures hand with the barbel and otter.

Well, I'll agree that the barbel population of the Severn catchment is alien, and high, but as Sportsman has pointed out very few otters are now "introduced" - its all recolonisation. But yes, one of the points about otter diets is that although they have preferences (eels, crayfish) they go for what is most abundant and easiest to catch.So if there are a lot of barbel, that is what they will eat.

 

I guess we as Anglers are unique in allowing such a demise of our sport,

 

It won't be a demise, just a new balance - and after you telling us about the dire state of your local rivers, you tell us about a bag of barbel and chub from the Wye which appears to contradict that.

OK you say the Wye has suffered less than other rivers - but surely the Wye is stiff with otters ?

 

 

If only the picture you paint was so clear and represented the true state of affairs as to Otters in our Rivers

 

Well I think it does, if you take Great Britain as a whole. OK, so you say the Severn catchment is a special case - so has any other Severn area poster anything to add?


 

 

RNLI Governor

 

World species 471 : UK species 105 : English species 95 .

Certhia's world species - 215

Eclectic "husband and wife combined" world species 501

 

"Nothing matters very much, few things matter at all" - Plato

...only things like fresh bait and cold beer...

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I'll tell you why I don't believe an otter can handle either a 15lb pike or a 20lb barbel. It's not that straightforward removing one of these fish from the water, with a rod and even once that has taken place, it's not that straightforward, holding your capture.

 

I cannot see how an otter could begin to cope with either of these fish. It might have claws and a mouth of teeth but it's still a very small animal and a damn sight smaller than person.

 

I'd think if an otter could handle either of fish, the fish were on the way out anyway.

 

I'd still like to see a video or a photograph of an otter removing a large fish of any kind be it a pike, a barbel or a carp. Apparently it's happening all over the place. Let's see it taking place. I mean surely if whole stretches of water are being cleaned out, someone, somewhere, would have at least taken a snap.

Edited by Andy Macfarlane

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I've fished the Teme for over 40 years. In that time there has been an otter presence, it is now back up to the levels that were present in the late 60's as I recall on the stretches I fished. I have never seen an abandoned large fish carcass that had been killed by otters but I have seen many large fish carcasses that have been scavenged after floods when the fish have been trapped after the water has subsided. As you know Teme-man, the Teme rises and falls with remarkable speed!

 

I have had the pleasure ( :o ) of dissecting many hundreds of otter spraints and the largest fish remains (from identifiable bones and scales) I have found have probably not exceeded 6-8lb. The vast majority of fish remains are from fish under 1lb in weight.

 

Regarding the Adam's Mill "Traveller" (if we really must name fish) and others then I wonder why anglers have not had the balls to hold their hand up as being partly responsible? That stretch of river was hammered unmercifully with repeat captures of many fish......subsequently found dead! A guide who 'teaches' barbel fishing on the Teme and a couple of other barbel 'hotspots' can't understand why the big barbel (that he targets for 9 months of the year as do, subsequently the people he teaches!) are disappearing and, when/if a carcass is found it is the fault of otters!!!!

 

I've gone into all of this before regarding stress and lactate build up etc. and the extraordinary amount of time that it takes fish to recover after being caught but for some reason otters hauling 20lb fish out of waters far and wide (not to mention 30lb non-native carp) seems a far easier target to blame. Get real, native predators doing what nature does naturally....sometimes made easier by Man practising C+R!

 

Oh, by the way Teme-man, PM Jeffwill and tell him where you are catching double figure barbel on the Wye because he thinks the otters have eaten all of the fish in the Wye!


Eating wild caught fish is good for my health, reduces food miles and keeps me fit trying to catch them........it's my choice to do it, not yours to stop me!

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This area where you think an Otter has killed some big fish could be actually inhabited by something else that likes fish, swims

exceptionally well and in many respects lives the same life as an Otter.

Anyone thought about Seals? On my stretch of the River Trent, at Laughterton, we have been plagued by them this year in far bigger numbers than before.

My friend has seen one first hand with a chunky Barbel in its mouth and at another time saw one chasing a large Common in the shallows.

 

Now they will happily munch on big fish.

 

 

 

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There's been seals up the river Ribble a few times now and you get anglers scare mongerring and saying they'll decimate the fish stock's.... What a load of bo!!ocks.

 

Those in the clips looked like pups to me.

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