Important Information – DEFRA General License Consultation

DEFRA General License consultation
The General License for the control of pest bird species is under review, this gives the potential opportunity to add Cormorant and Goosander to its pages along with the potential addition of Graylag Geese.

The consultation can be found here and ends on Dec 5th.

With review comes the risk of some species also controlled by a general license being removed from said licenses such as Canada Geese and so its need must be reiterated, although this consultation is largely aimed at the farming and shooting community anglers need to consider its impact carefully.
We would urge all members to complete the questionnaire survey.

The questionnaire is 10 pages long and a bit of a haul to fill in, a comment like Cormorant eat fish, don’t they? Simply won’t cut it and a more evidence-based answer will be needed.

This is being supported by our friends at the Angling Trust who have most helpfully promoted the consultation here and by the Avon Roach project here comments are very well put together and well worth a read.

Below, Ian Doyle your Conservation Officer offers help to outline an argument for the inclusion of species from an angling perspective and may help you as an individual complete the survey.


I will stress the importance of this exercise as it gives an opportunity to have our voice heard and help bring about an easier access to the protection of our fish stock. If you feel that you can’t rephrase the following or add your own comments please use it as required.

Canada Geese
As an angler I witness the damage that large numbers of geese can have on a water body, unpleasant as it sounds Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) defecate on an almost industrial scale (1lb of faecal matter per bird per day), impacting on Nitrate and Phosphate levels thereby impacting on water quality. This is known to increase algal blooms some of which are of the blue green variety, toxic by nature. In extreme cases this can cause fish kills by causing crashes in oxygen levels enhanced by biochemical oxygen demand.
Their grazing nature impacts heavily on farm land 4 geese = 1 sheep.
Their excessive consumption of marginal weed growth has a major impact on biodiversity reducing habitat for invertebrates, decimating spawning areas and strangely (I believe) creating a bizarre symbiotic relationship with piscatorial birds, increasing their impact by destroying refuge areas resulting in fish stocks becoming more vulnerable. This will induce stress which will increase the risk of disease and reduce the protection of fish’s mucus membrane which will also increase the risk of parasitic infection.
The bird’s habit of defecating near waterbodies brings about a risk of slipping and falling into water with the obvious potential of injury or even fatalities.
Faecal matter is a viable food source for bacteria and insects which bring about the risk of disease in humans. Birds are known to gather in large number rendering public parks and play areas unsafe and unpleasant for human use. The potential for faecal matter to infect cattle is of concern as is their heavy grazing of crops leading to potential loss to the farming community, it’s prudent to consider grass as a useful crop alongside whatever else birds may consume. The gathering of birds in such number can have a major impact on grassland affecting ground nesting birds such as the curlew now proven to be in serious decline.

Cormorant (phalacrocorax sinensis and carbo)
Decimation of native fish stocks: These birds have only been breeding inland in the UK since 1981, numbers are on the increase.
Atlantic Salmon have been running British rivers since the Ice age and are now red listed and proven to be in serious decline. The closure of hatcheries along with the agencies insistence of any restocking being of genetic relevance makes this fish irreplaceable. Salmon are under duress from many sources avian predation is a key factor.
The recent introduction of the compulsory catch and release of Salmon may well bring about financial implications for the leisure industry in Wales along with the return of revenue from the sale of rod licenses and its impact on Government coffers. It is believed by the angling community that England will soon adopt this practice when In truth the likely major suspect with regards to the demise of the King of fishes is indeed the Cormorant and not in fact the angler.
Cormorant eat a conservative 2lbs of fish a day this may be made up of a feast of many, many Salmon Parr.
Brown trout are no longer allowed to be stocked into the riverine environment unless they are Triploid (sexless non-productive fish) these fish only serve to feed hungry anglers and have no place in the general biodiversity of our rivers. Resident Salmonids and their gene pools are in desperate need of preservation, the control of piscatorial predators has regrettably due to historical mismanagement now become a necessary evil.
Financial pressure: Commercial and stocked course fisheries cannot sustain the financial burden of stocking fish to feed birds, A single 1lb Roach for example costs approximately £7.00.
Fishing is an outdoor activity known to improve physical and mental wellbeing. Predation serves to increase the cost of this activity making it less accessible to the general public.
Excessive predation will increase fish stress impacting on their health and behaviour which will in turn make them hard to catch, impacting on angling.
With the need for restocking to compensate for losses to predation comes the heightened risk of the transfer of disease and pathogens. Along with this comes the need to obtain fish movement order’s from the Environment agency which may require a number of fish to be killed for scientific tests in a bid to reduce the spread of disease or pathogens. This exacerbates the risk of illegal fish movement encouraging fishery owners or managers to risk acting without due care or license.
Course fish are expensive, current price lists are here and here as examples. To compensate for the covering the cost of additional stocking brought about by predation the cost of fishing has to go up. This may make it less accessible in the future. A single bird eating 2lbs of Roach on a daily basis equates to a weekly cost of £49.00, with an annual cost of £2,548.00.
Natural Pressure: Many SSSI’s and SAC’s are so listed due to the species that dwell in them, outlined above is the obvious impact on our native Salmonids and course species. The very mention of species in such citations make them of national importance.
Several Heronry’s are also on known SSSI’s, Cormorant are known to displace Herons from their breeding sites.
General health and biodiversity: A large population of a specific piscatorial species will aid the life cycle of certain parasites, thereby effecting infection in other fish eating birds, impacting (as an example) on the life cycle of a species of eye fluke “Diplostomum pseudospathaceum”. This parasite has a complex lifecycle with multiple hosts. Egg, then free swimming, then snail, then fish, infecting the fishes eyes and changing their host’s behaviour making them easier for birds to catch. Then via predation back to birds to be passed back to a water body as eggs in faecal matter. This infestation is exaggerated by excessive avian predation having a direct impact on everything within that cycle. Large inland numbers of Cormorant are a recent phenomenon and will impact on future populations of Diplostomum pseudospathaceum and accordingly impact upon their hosts.
Spread of population: It is well documented that Cormorant can travel 30 miles a day in search of food. I know of birds that have travelled from Puffin Island to Jodrell Bank, Cheshire an approximate 50 mile journey and from Puffin Island to Weston Park in Staffordshire an approximate 70 miles, with a bird shot under license in Garstang, Lancashire emanating from the same place, an approximate 88 miles (Puffin Island being certified by the BTO as the original ringing site). This shows that birds will travel to find food and as such corresponding bird movement makes it difficult to plan ahead to allow for the current licensing system to be of use (some licenses are known to take in excess of 3 months in their acquisition) thereby actively encouraging illegal shooting activity.
Shooting to scare (as opposed to kill) as well as other current license scaring requirements is designed to move birds along (these being initially required to attain a license under current legislation). Any birds scared by this procedure may move to become a nuisance in another location. This (scaring activity) is then followed up by the shooting to kill a limited number of allocated birds this may not be enough to move all visiting birds from site where upon a further a licensing request for an additional allocation has to be made. Causing yet further delay in the protection of fish stock.
Success in shooting to kill means surviving birds move to another area where they may become a problem for another fishery manager and the adoption of a whole new license may well once again need to be applied.

Goosander (Mergus merganser)
As outlined above with my comments directed at the control of Cormorant.
Notably the Goosander didn’t occur in Britain (Scotland) until the mid-1840’s and was only found on certain Welsh rivers in the mid 1990’s and are steadily on the incline. Atlantic Salmon as stated previously are in serious decline.
Goosander like Cormorant hunt in packs and account for the destruction of many of our Salmonid and course fish stock.

Graylag Geese (Anser anser)
The population of Graylag geese is on the rise leading to the same impacts as those of the Canada Geese outlined above.

It’s important that we as anglers act on this opportunity to help improve our fishing in the future please do your best to find time to fill in this consultation.
Thanks for reading. – Ian Doyle, Conservation Officer, Prince Albert Angling Society.