Separating fact from fiction: otters and anglers

An item on on BBC One's Countryfile in early 2017 suggested there is growing pressure from anglers to cull otters, but Dr Daniel Allen of the UK Wild Otter Trust disagrees.

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A Eurasian otter eating an eel in Northumberland

A Eurasian otter eating an eel in Northumberland © Nature Picture Library / Getty

 

Are otters a problem for freshwater fisheries?

Predation can eat into the profits of those with vested interests in fish, but measures can be taken to prevent otters from taking stock from still-water fisheries.

What measures?

A physical barrier that otters cannot climb over, pass through or under is the most effective deterrent for managed stillwater fisheries and fish farms. Otter-proof fencing specifications have become standardised as part of Natural England licensing conditions. Otter-feeding (‘sacrificial’) ponds can also be effective.

Is there pressure from anglers to cull otters that become a problem?

There is no pressure for an otter cull from the Angling Trust, and such attitudes are not representative of that community. Calls to cull otters have bubbled to the surface recently, but these are extreme views from a minority. The BBC One Countryfile feature appeared to suggest that calls to cull otters are the norm. They are not.

How is the UK Wild Otter Trust (UKWOT) helping?

The Trust recently secured the first ongoing ‘class licence’ to capture and transport live Eurasian otters trapped in well-fenced fisheries in England. UKWOT has five trained operatives and, since October 2016, 10 fenced fisheries have approached us to help them. UKWOT is collaborating with the Angling Trust, Natural England, the RSPCA and otter specialists to find solutions that benefit both  otters and angling.

Do you think these measures will quell any calls for a cull?

There will always be individuals who call for culls over coexistence. UKWOT has taken a pragmatic approach to fish predation by otters, and it shows that a protected species can be managed in a non-lethal way at a local scale in England.

 

This article first appeared in the March 2017 issue

 

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