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Fisheries Workshop Draws Up Action Plan To
Manage Otter Predation
The Angling Trust and the Institute of
Fisheries Management held a workshop at Barston Lakes in the Midlands for academics, Defra, the Environment Agency and fisheries and
angling groups to assess the impacts
of growing numbers of otters on fisheries and to identify actions to minimise them.
The workshop heard that the resurgence of otter numbers has been
almost entirely driven by natural
regeneration as a result of the withdrawal of harmful chemicals in the
1970s and 1980s. Genetic evidence
shows that the offspring of captivebred otters, released up until the
1990s, have not moved very far from
the Midlands. The only otters released
since then have been wild-born
injured or orphaned animals, which
have been rehabilitated in sanctuaries. Although official surveys have a
low level of confidence about the
numbers of otters nationwide. There
is consensus that numbers are growing and they are becoming more
widespread. In some areas, they may
have reached a maximum population.
There were presentations on the
impact of otters on river and still
water fisheries and on trout farms,
which demonstrated significant
losses in some parts of the country.
However, there were many healthy
fisheries in places where otters were
present in significant numbers. Environmental pressures on rivers such as
pollution, over-abstraction, habitat
damage and invasive species were
heard to have a major impact on the
recruitment of many fish populations,
and there was consensus that urgent
action was needed to tackle these
While more and more fisheries are
being fenced due to funding from the
Environment Agency’s rod licence
distributed by the Angling Trust, there
is a huge demand for fencing and
costs have increased in recent years.
Many fisheries cannot be fenced and
there is a need to explore the potential for other deterrents to predators at
these fisheries. Many fisheries may
have to adapt their fishery management and stock balance to reflect the
rising numbers of otters.
Mark Lloyd, Chief Executive of the
Angling Trust and Fish Legal said:
“There is no doubt that there have
been very significant problems on
many still water and river fisheries as
otters have spread into new areas.
Fishery management will have to
adapt to the presence of otters over
the coming years as they reach their
natural balance, and our organisations
are committed to doing everything
we can to support clubs and fisheries
through that process. Urgent action is
needed to tackle the many environmental threats to rivers and lakes to
ensure that fisheries can be more
resilient to predation.”
David Bunt, Chairman of the Institute of Fisheries Management said: “It
has been very positive to get the
experts and representatives of
angling and fisheries and otter science together to have a rational,
i n f o r m e d a n d b a l a n c e d d e b a t e.
Healthy fish stocks and fishing are an
indication of healthy environments
and can coexist with healthy otter
populations. Where fish are concentrated, they will be targeted by otters,
and, to protect those fisheries and
businesses that rely on them, we will
support non-harmful methods to
deter otters from entering them.”
Key Outputs
1. The Angling Trust and IFM will
produce a guide for angling clubs
and fishery managers setting out
the legal situation, correcting
some of the misunderstandings
around releases and captive bred
otters and what can be done to
protect fish stocks against otter
The Angling Trust and IFM will
request the statutory agencies to
streamline the consent processes
for permitting otter fencing on still
waters and press for an increase in
The Angling Trust will lobby the
government for the long-term regulation of the rehabilitation of
injured and orphaned otters and a
Code of Conduct in the short term.
The Angling Trust and IFM will
press for further research to be
commissioned into deterrents for
unfenceable waters.
The Angling Trust and IFM will
press for clarification regarding
scaring or disturbing an otter as a
result of either protecting a legitimate business or installing in
stream habitat enhancements.
All agreed that more action was
needed to deal with the issues
affecting recruitment of river fish:
pollution, abstraction, habitat
damage, barriers to fish migration.
A more healthy fish population
would be better placed to withstand the impacts of otter predation.
The Environment Agency is planning a series of workshops and a
conference around management
of still water fisheries over the
coming year that will provide
guidance around designing
resilience to predation. n


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