FREE LINE 03 - Page 12

In the news recently: SAVE THE OTTER
By Keith Leech
The European otter “Lutara Lutra” is a
beautiful member of the mustelid
family, an intelligent creature that is
ruthlessly efficient at hunting, capable
of taking prey many times its size
both on land and in the water. They
hunt all types of amphibians, waterfowl and fish and are a beautiful sight
on our waterways. Nearly wiped out
in UK through the mid part of last
century due to farming practices and
lack of water cleanliness, and since a
reintroduction programme it has
started to make a rapid comeback
and is now in every county up and
down the land. So why do you say
save the otter? The otter needs saving
from its own success and the current
inability of the natural waterways to
support its population explosion.
River water quality has improved
over the last twenty years – there is
no doubt about that. Environmental
controls put on farming and industry
have gone a long way, but there is still
a long way to go. In years gone by, our
rivers had lots of eel and fish that are
now hard to come across in numbers.
Silver fish and fingerlings of all
description are in decline through
over predation, cormorants have
moved inland and decimate them, the
goosander and alien crayfish decimate the small fish that can no longer
grow in to large ones and all this is
the staple diet of the otter. The stocks
on the rivers are low and some critically; some have literally been wiped
out from predation and are barren in
comparison to only ten years ago. The
balance in the river ecosystem is just
not there; even on the riverbanks the
vole is in decline and so is some bird
life due to another mustelid, the mink,
which has all the attributes of the
otter in a small package, an illegal
immigrant foolishly released and now
thriving and destroying our native
Me, I am an angler. Those that do
not partake will never get it. Those
that do angle, live it and breathe it. It’s
not a hobby to most nor a passion; it’s
an obsession, and a healthy one at
that. We sample the outdoors and
fresh air, and many are very in touch
with the local wildlife. For me the
trouble with us facing predation pressure is that angling is disjointed; we
have carp specialists, barbel and river
specialists; we have the father and
son duos that enjoy some summer
fun; we have those with a fly rod and
those that chase predators. It goes on,
it’s huge, but it’s that fragmentation
for me that is one of the issues behind
inaction. Each specialism is often
separate from the other and so are the
bodies that champion them, each
with a friendly rivalry that looks cross
eyed at the other, a rivalry that we
need to turn into brotherhood, a
brotherhood that needs to sit at the
same table and create one voice – a
loud well-informed voice, a voice with
reason and we need to make that
voice heard.
My title, Save the Otter, will send a
shiver down the spine of most
anglers. The despised creature sitting
at the top of a pyramid of destruction
that is badly hurting their passion.
Some are lucky and can fish in an
Alcatraz, a venue protected by security fencing and locked gates – not
the wildest of environments for those
that love the outdoors, but it works in
some cases. I say “some”, as many
places cannot afford this or get permission for this, and they are left at
the mercy of the torrent of predators
with finally the otter being big
enough and ruthless to kill the fish
that are too big for the others, and kill
them they do! The big fish go to
waste, as the otter only eats a portion.
The rivers are nearly devoid of its normal food sources, so they raid the big
stock that they are capable of killing.
They eat little of that big kill and leave
large carcasses strewn across the
banks with mere mouthfuls taken. In
low fish locations, they turn on the
birds; a swan is easily overpowered,
as are geese and nesting sites. It is all
w e l l f i l m e d a n d p h o t o g r a p h e d,
though the angling community needs
to get better at providing dates and
locations. A central library is much
needed; the evidence of destruction
needs to have a parity graph of monetary cost, so economic losses can be
attributed and not just passion and
anger. This is the broad evidence we
are missing to add weight to our
I say save the otter, as it needs just
that; it needs saving from itself and its
own rapid comeback. It’s a lovely
creature and a pleasure to see, yet bitterly unsustainable in the current climate. I say save it because if action is
not taken it will get wiped out
through frustration. The fine for killing
an otter is up to £5000, but that pales
into insignificance next to the cost of
the specimen fish they kill. A farmer
can protect his sheep from the dog, so
does anybody really believe that
anglers do not protect theirs? Watching multi thousands of pounds worth
of stock that take 20, 30, even 40 years
to grow get destroyed in weeks as the
otter moves in. The slim chance of a
fine weighed against protecting a
livelihood that feeds a family, pays the
bills and mortgage is a no-brainer
weighed against a venue and an
obsession you have childhood memories on, a personal best capture or a
target you’ve had your heart set on.
Illegal yes, immoral… that depends
on what side of the fence you sit, but
it will happen all the same.
I will call for what many do not
want to say openly, and that is a limited cull – a cull based on evidence
and carried out by professionals – a
limited cull to save angling and the
otter. The pyramid of predation is too
great, and the otter is quickly destroying venues that cannot be fenced and
the rivers of the specimen sized stock
they held that is the future’s breeding
fish! I want to see the otter and
angling live side by side, but right
now it is not, and action needs to be
taken to protect both. Angling cannot
sustain the predation, and the predation will not survive the wrath of the
angler if left unresolved much longer.
I suggest a cull as part of a largescale long-term plan, purely targeted
to areas and locations that are being
decimated. In tandem with that, consultation and work need to be done
with the EA to reestablish healthy
populations of fish in the rivers and
again manage the right level of predators in the pyramid. Balance can be
gained with work and effort from all
sides. Angling needs a voice, a joinedup voice that will work with the RSPB,
EA and Otter Trust.
Equilibrium can be found, I do not
doubt it, but the current head in the
sand approach by some on the
wildlife side is frustrating the angler,
leaving them at times with the difficult decision to protect a livelihood or
a venue of love. The angler is one of
the few members of society that pays
into the EA annually in the form of a
rod licence. Millions of pounds and
millions of voices that should be
heard; they pay for that right annually
for sure!
So yes, save the otter; work
together to come together, and get a
big voice informed with fact and evidence. The wildlife enthusiasts should
look at both sides of the fence as
should the angler. The otter to the
angler is not going away but needs to
be managed! To the wildlife enthusiast, the angler is here to stay, and
working with them will help save the
beautiful Lutra Lutra from itself. n


Powered by

Full screen Click to read
Paperturn flipbook
Download as PDF
Shopping cart
Full screen
Exit full screen