Leading Fishery Builds Fences to Protect Stock
Wingham Fisheries near Canterbury, Kent has become the latest establishment to install fencing to protect its fish stocks from otters. A number of British fisheries have been forced to close after losing their stock to the resurgent wild otter.
Protecting Prize Carp
Wingham Fisheries has shelled out thousands of pounds to erect the fencing to protect its prized carp including Britain's largest specimen which weighs 80lbs. Large course fish can be worth as much as £30,000 each and attract anglers from all over the country. But wild otters are decimating fish in some areas, necessitating drastic action.
Mistakes with Wild Otters
The Wild Otter Trust has admitted that mistakes were made when hundreds of otters, which are a protected species, were released into the wild in the 1980s and 1990s. This was a measure to boost the wild otter population but more research should have been conducted into the effects that the animals would have on rivers and fisheries.
Otter numbers fell dramatically in Britain in the 1950s mainly due to habitat loss and agricultural pesticides entering watercourses. Otter hunting was banned in 1978 and organochlorine pesticides were phased out and so the otters could recolonise waterways with the help of conservation projects. It remains illegal to harm otters or to interfere with their habitat.
A Matter of Time
Wingham Fisheries felt that it was only a matter of time before the otters spread across the country. The sizable nature of their property meant that they had to act as soon as possible because the fencing project could not be completed quickly. Wingham boasts nine carp weighing more than 50lbs which it was important to protect from the predators and so the fishery taken action before the otters reach the region. The fishery has spent more than 20 years developing its stock and could not risk seeing it destroyed by otters.
Angling Trust Grants
Wingham Fisheries has not confirmed exactly how much the fencing has cost but the work was partially funded by the Angling Trust. In recent years, the Environment Agency has given the Angling Trust in excess of £1m from the proceeds of rod licence sales to help fisheries to protect their stocks. Anglers pay significant annual membership fees and day fees for the privilege of fishing at lakes with impressive specimen fish. The loss of the fish quickly leads to the demise of the businesses. It comes as no surprise that fishery owners are prepared to spend big in order to defend their fish.
Otter Would Have Recovered Anyway
It is likely that the population of wild otters would have increased naturally anyway, without the help of the releases. Otters are an apex predator and so they didn't need any outside assistance to support their recovery once the issues with their habitat has been addressed. The artificial introduction of otters was unnecessary and, some say, irresponsible as it was performed without consulting fisheries.