GET HOOKED: Otter population must be managed not culled

Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard: The otter  - no friend to the angler The otter - no friend to the angler

IF THERE is one thing certain to divide anglers, and to have the Get Hooked postbag bulging, it is the topic of otters.

I’ll admit to a degree of trepidation at even mentioning them last week, but the talk by Mark Bryant at the carp gathering merited it, and offered valuable common sense.

There is a minority view among anglers that we should be stalking the lakes and rivers of the UK like camouflaged vigilantes, determinedly eradicating the pesky predators. It’s an instinctive, emotive and ultimately unhelpful view, too. It’s also highly illegal.

The majority think differently, but the concern throughout the sport is genuine. Anglers are very worried. Many rivers, including our local Avon, have suffered terribly.

Barbel have been hit particularly badly in flowing waters, while large and valuable carp are a favoured meal in lakes. Unquestionably, some fisheries have been badly affected. But the vigilante talk is exactly that: pub bravado and no more.

There is no prospect of an otter cull – the non-angling public wouldn’t support it and nor, for that matter, would many of us. And there is no moral justification for it, either. We, as humans, reintroduced them. The otter is only doing what it is supposed to.

They are here to stay, throughout the Water Park, and any suggestion of illegal culls is folly in the extreme; the Environment Agency will doubtless prosecute anyone taking such steps, and so they should.

If there is an answer – other than allowing natural order to re-establish itself over a period of years – it is through informed otter management, and fishery protection. The latter, as I said last week, is perfectly possible on most stillwater fisheries, including those on the Water Park.

Of the emails I received following last week’s piece, one of the most interesting was from Ben Welbourn from the Cotswold Water Park Trust. He reminded me that there is EA funding available for otter fencing on public waters. In addition, the EA can advise on the right kind of fencing – and, as rod license payers, we would do well to seek the benefit of their wisdom.

This is a critically important time for our fisheries, but it is no less an important time for angling in general. You can be sure that our response to the otter problem will be watched just as closely as the activities of our furry neighbours.

Catch reports: jon_s_berry@yahoo.co.uk

Twitter: @jonberrywriter

Website: www.jon-berry.net

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