Where do you go for your information? If you put 'cormorants the facts' into a well-known search engine you will probably find your way to this useful document on the Salmon and Trout Association website and also on the Environment Agency's website.
But there are other places to seek your facts - for example this website, this one, this one, or this one. You choose.
Up until now Defra has tended to follow the first route for its information. Here is Defra's policy on cormorants. But we are worried that fisherman Minister Richard Benyon might be minded to change the policy under pressure from his fellow fishermen.
Defra talks a lot about evidence-based policy making and yet the previous lurch towards unjustified, unregulated and unmonitored cormorant killing was not founded on good science - in fact it was founded on some pretty poor science (see link here) and is likely to have under-estimated the impact of culling on cormorant populations (see published scientific paper here).
Mr Benyon's predecessor, Mr Ben Bradshaw, caved in to the more rabid arguments of some fishermen, and showed his weak grasp of the subject, by claiming that he had been harassed in the street outside his flat by cormorants. You don't need to be a fishermen to recognise something very fishy about this. In fact the Minister looked very foolish. Now we all know that the current minister, Mr Benyon, knows his birds (and some of his fish) pretty well so he is surely going to do better.
The cormorant is not the prettiest bird in the world but this is not a beauty parade. And the RSPB does not oppose all killing of any cormorants. What we would expect is that government does not allow wild birds to be killed just because they are a bit inconvenient to a few people, not because they are black and less-than-pretty, and not without reasonable evidence of damage and reasonable evidence that non-lethal measures have been tried without much success.
Unless the not-too-beautiful cormorant gets a decent deal we cannot be sure that some fishermen will not move on to otters, herons, mergansers, kingfishers, grebes and a host of other species which quite naturally eat fish. And then others will suggest that sparrowhawks would benefit from a bit of thinning out in numbers. After that the grouse moors will be bristling with cries to limit hen harrier numbers (as if they aren't already!) and peregrines and golden eagles. So, when I hear 'black luftwaffe' I hear the irrational thin end of a massive wildlife-harming wedge.
I like cormorants but their numbers have increased over the years and they may well cause occasional problems for fisheries. There should be remedies available for fisheries with serious problems. The thing is - there are remedies available for fisheries with serious problems.
Competitiveness in Fishing is increasing as is the anglers intolerence towards competing predators. Otters are being killed now by the misguided and I'm uncomfortable with the RSPB taking a stance that may allow some culling of Cormorants because if Osprey continue to increase in numbers in the south, don't be surprised if anglers take it out on them too. Where would the RSPB stand in this instance ?
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