And now, one mans response, for balance:- forgive me for posting all this but, I thought it was well written and interestingly put arguments:-
I read with dismay and disbelief Simon Barnes’s piece in the latest RSPB newsletter. Dismay, because he does not for a second deviate from what I have found to be the stock RSPB attitude to wildlife in general: that only birds are of any consequence; all other life seems to exist only to feed birds. And disbelief, because he is so patently disingenuous in his statements on cormorants.
The idea that cormorants should be given a free hand to plunder (there is no other word for it) our inland waterways does indeed make anglers’ blood boil. Five cormorants are quite capable of eating their way through a tonne of fish per year. I have personally witnessed cormorants which are nearly incapable of taking off after a feeding session in freshwater. I note that Simon Barnes appears to subscribe to the rather romantic view of predation which insists that ‘they only take what they need’. Don’t believe a word of it – the cormorant is a voracious and highly efficient predator and will take fish in a feeding frenzy while the going is good. Once small fish are in short supply, a cormorant will always have a go at larger fish, leaving them with gaping wounds and the chance of fatal fungal infection. Even 35,000 birds will be able to eat their way through a phenomenal quantity of fish. In comparison, kingfishers and herons (birds which, incidentally, we anglers love to see) have an insignificant impact.
The reality is that herons and kingfishers are now in direct feeding competition with cormorants. Nobody can be very much in doubt as to which would win, if the situation was left as it is. And please do not tell me that cormorants are a native British bird, with as much right to be there as the robin. Simon Barnes conveniently forgets that cormorants have migrated inland from sea to freshwater. They are now at the stage, such is the depletion of the sea, of migrating from freshwater in northern Europe to freshwater in the UK. The already pressured inland environment in being impacted by a species it could well do without. But then that’s the RSPB: all birds deserve unlimited protection, whatever they are and whatever effect they have.
He disingenuously refers to fish refuges as the answer to cormorant predation. On stillwaters these have their place. But eventually the birds will rumble these for what they are, and we are then back to square one. And the idea that fish refuges, even if they did work, could be placed effectively in several thousand miles of river in the UK is clearly a ludicrous one.
There is more than a hint of hostility to angling in Simon Barnes’s article. His anti-angling stance is beyond doubt when he observes that ‘what they do for a living can compromise what some humans do for fun’. I consider that the many RSPB members who fish would do well to take note of this view: one can only assume that is not out of tune with official RSPB policy: both on cormorants, and of course on fishing. He refers to us anglers as ‘the opposition’, against which ‘we bird people’ should by implication close ranks.
Perhaps the RSPB would care to distance itself formally from Mr Barnes’s rather sanctimonious statements?
Or alternatively, I think a formal statement on its position vis-à-vis angling is long overdue.
We fish people – and many of us are in fact RSPB members - would love to know where we stand.