7 May 2012

Solutions to the spread of the otter

In the 1970s, otters were absent in most counties of the UK, and endangered in many more. Now, however, since otter hunting was banned in 1978, Britain's waterways and anglers are suffering because booming numbers of predators, such as otters and cormorants, are eating too many fish.

Martin Salter, Labour’s angling spokeman in 2010, said ‘their numbers have been artificially boosted by a release programme that took no notice of the available food source.’
Many anglers are, understandably, angry about the otter’s population rise and the corresponding decline of fish. Not only is it bad for fishing, which anglers pay a yearly fee to the Environmental Agency for, but it is also bad for the biodiversity of Britain’s water ecosystems. Also, fisheries and angling clubs across the country have gone out of business, with the predators causing economic losses of over £80,000 in stocks of fish alone.

There is a petition for the culling of otters to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The link can be found below:

However, perhaps the correct response should not be to cull them. Instead, the Wildlife Trust could re-house otters into more sustainable areas, where the fish population can support Britain’s largest wild carnivore. At the same time, as Paul Wilkinson, of the Wildlife Trust, said, ‘solutions to fisheries predation can be found, such as otter-proof fencing.’ With measures such as this, as well as the re-location of otters from over-populated areas, the Environmental Agency could maintain the popular sport of coarse fishing as well as sustaining a small but healthy population of otters, which are also a much-loved mammal and countryside character when people see them break the surface of our rivers. 

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