Thursday, 5 March 2015
Proposals for reducing Cormorant predation of fish
I was recently forwarded an email (below) about proposals to reduce Cormorant predation of fish at Earlswood, and would appreciate your comments. Cormorant numbers have increased at the lakes during the last few years, annual peaks being in the late teens/20s mostly during the autumn. I'm concerned about two of the proposals. Opening up more areas around Terry's Pool is going to cause more disturbance to other bird species seeking refuge there and encourage more illicit fishing. Use of a starting pistol is also going to cause more disturbance to non-target bird species, and I would certainly be against its use during the breeding season for obvious reasons. It's quite depressing really - Earlswood is more than adequately disturbed as it is! Please share with anyone else who might be interested.
On Tuesday 24th February 2015 a group of interested representatives met at Earlswood Lakes to discuss the problem of cormorant predation and potential measures to help reduce the damage to fish and loss of fish being caused by cormorant predation.
The following people were in attendance:
Canal & River Trust: Carl Nicholls (Fisheries & Angling Manger), Paul Wilkinson (Senior Ecologist) and Sue Blocksidge (Waterway Supervisor).
Local anglers: Richard Verney, Mark Carney and Barry Cheese.
Angling Trust Fisheries Advisor on Cormorant predation: Richard Bamforth
Earlswood Wildlife Partnership Secretary: Bob Roberts
Fishery Licensee / Bailiff: John Collins
Local anglers and the fishery bailiff report increasing numbers of cormorants visually present with a maximum of 35 being recorded on one day. Bob Roberts and local bird watchers comment that they have seen numbers up to 25 present at times. Anglers and the bailiff are reporting fish visually being taken by birds as well as numbers of fish that are being caught having damage marks from either escaping or being too big for the cormorant to swallow. Actively feeding cormorants are also disturbing and stopping fish from setting on anglers baited areas which is affecting and reducing anglers catches. The effect of fish being eaten and angler’s catches being reduced is reducing pleasure and match angling attendances which is having a knock on effect in less income being received by the Trust.
Fish are also a valuable asset to the Trust with the average cost of fish now being £8/lb. On average a cormorant eats 1lb of fish. With a potential of 25-35 cormorants a day visiting the site this would equate to 175lb-245lb of fish being eaten per week at a replacement cost of £1400-£1960.
The group discussed and these are the proposals made:
· Improvements to the existing floating islands on Engine pool. This included new coir mats and replanting of native plants on the island. An increase to the perimeter edge of the islands with coir rolls and new perimeter fencing around the island to protect the new plants while they establish as well as hindering the perching areas used by the cormorants.
· The long thin island nearest to the Engine pool on Terry’s pool is noted as a roosting and feeding location for the cormorants. Remove all the wooden posts surrounding the island that are used by the cormorants to perch on. Coppice all the trees and the island to reduce potential perching locations but retain valuable habitat for nesting of local birds.
· Removal of the Tern raft to allow the raft to be improved so that it is more attractive to its purpose species.
· Opening up of more areas around Terry’s pool by removing encroaching branches to allow for more visual appreciation of the pool as well as naturally disturbing cormorant resting and feeding due to more visual public presence.
· Use of starting pistol by fishery bailiff and an angling representative to create loud bang and disturb roosting or feeding birds. Conditions and code of practice to be agreed on time of day, number of times fired and per day, other users to the site etc.
· Fishery bailiff and angling representative to carry and wear Orange Hi Viz vest to back up and enforce the use of the starting pistol. The cormorants build up an association with being disturbed and shot at with the colour Orange. Future association means the birds will naturally avoid areas where they see people in bright orange.
· Fishery bailiff and angling representative to continue to monitor and record cormorant numbers and photograph any fish caught with damage caused by cormorants.
Should the above measures not help with a desired reduction in cormorant predation? An application may be made to Natural England to apply for a licence to shoot cormorants to re-enforce scaring methods and habitat improvements.
I would be grateful if you could take some time to look at the proposals and make any comments or suggestions?
Fisheries & Angling Manager
Canal & River Trust, Peels Wharf, Lichfield Street, Fazeley, Tamworth, B78 3QZ