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CARP CHAT
Suspension by Natural England of the general
shooting licence –Angling Trust questions if
Natural England is ‘fit for purpose’
Fo l l o w i n g y e s t e r d a y ’s m e e t i n g
between senior representatives of the
Angling Trust and the British Association for Shooting and Conservation
(BASC), the Trust has endorsed the
concerns expressed by shooting,
farming and countryside organisations at the chaos caused by Natural
England’s premature and ill-thought
out decision to suspend the general
shooting licence used to control ‘pest
species’ such as wood pigeons and
crows. The Trust has issued the following statement:
The Angling Trust absolutely supports a sensible and considered
review of the general licence and
believes there is a strong case for the
inclusion of fish-eating birds such as
cormorants and goosanders, whose
increased numbers in recent years
have driven some fish species to the
brink of extinction on a number of
waters where previously they have
thrived.
However, we believe that any
changes should have been subject to
discussion and consultation with all
stakeholders rather than the panicked
response from Natural England to the
challenge from broadcaster Chris
Packham’s campaign group Wild Justice.
We would have welcomed the
opportunity, not only to discuss the
most effective use of the licensing
system, including the assessment and
management of the general licence,
but to have reviewed the management and control of other bird species
that are not on the general licence but
which pose a major threat to the
health of our fish and fisheries. We
note that the RSPB itself has culled
over 1000 crows in the last two years
on its reserves to protect the threatened curlew populations from predation.
The species covered by the ruling
include wood pigeons, crows, magpies, jackdaws, jays, black-backed
gulls, Canada geese and non-native
parakeets. Fish-eating birds such as
cormorants and goosanders are not
on the general licence – although we
believe there is a case for their inclusion – and as such the temporary cessation had no impact on angling or
fishery owners in possession of a specific licence. Natural England have
now announced the commencement
8 FREE LINE
of the first of their revised general
licences with promise of a full review
at the end of the year.
Unfortunately, the panic reaction of
Natural England has led to some particularly unpleasant responses on
social media, some serious personal
threats that are now the subject of a
police investigation, and a petition
calling for Packham to be sacked from
the BBC. The Angling Trust has joined
BASC in utterly condemning the
actions of those responsible for these
threats and neither organisation supports the petition calling for Mr Packham to be “sacked” by the BBC. This
is an over-reaction and unnecessary
move against an individual who,
while we don’t agree with him on this
issue, has every right to say what he
believes.
The Angling Trust is arranging a
meeting with the new chairman of
Natural England to express our concerns and to press them to properly
engage with all stakeholders, including anglers and fishery owners, and to
broaden this review to include other
species that need a more effective
management system, such as cormorants and goosanders.
Head of Policy at the Angling Trust,
Martin Salter, said: “We have had serious concerns about the operation of
Natural England for some time. They
have been obstructive in the granting
of our existing limited licences for the
control of cormorants and goosanders
and now they have caused massive
problems for farmers who need to
protect their crops from pigeons and
for others who want to protect
wildlife from predation by crows and
magpies.
We are pleased that new general
licences have been issued, although
this has been done in such a rush that
further problems are inevitable, and
that the entire regime will be up for
review at the end of the year. However, we would question whether
Natural England is fit for purpose as a
regulator and fully support the call by
shooting, farming and countryside
organisations for Michael Gove to
step in and sort out the chaos caused
by Natural England’s premature and
ill-thought out decision to suspend
the general shooting licence, which is
vital to control pest species.”
Christopher Graffius, Director of
Communications at BASC, added:
“BASC welcomes the support of the
Angling Trust in sorting out the current chaos caused by Natural England in withdrawing the general
licences for pest control. As a result
farmers are unable to protect their
flocks from corvids and their fields
from wood pigeons without tackling a
bureaucratic system unfit for purpose.
Both of our organisations are devoted
to ensuring a healthy, well managed
natural environment without which
our activities are seriously damaged.
Is it really too much to ask that the
regulator should consult us on the
systems they expect us to implement? With Natural England’s failure
it is now essential that Defra Ministers get a grip or this will go down as
a disaster in the countryside.” n

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