Flummoxed fishermen have nothing to catch in River Yeo

PUBLISHED: 13:07 26 January 2018 | UPDATED: 13:07 26 January 2018

The River Yeo in Congresbury. Picture: James Griffiths

The River Yeo in Congresbury. Picture: James Griffiths

(c) copyright citizenside.com

An influx of predatory birds has left North Somerset anglers flummoxed, as a river’s fish stocks have been ‘cleaned out’.

Cormorants have been blamed for depleted fish populations in Congresbury’s River Yeo, after feasting on the waterway’s once-healthy supply of roach, bream, tench, perch, dace, and gudgeon.

The ‘formidable’ hunters have ventured inland with a sizable appetite, each scoffing two pounds of fish per day, leaving anglers frustrated and their nets dry.

And the protected status of cormorants makes it a difficult issue to tackle.

Villager Michael Greaves said: “All the fish in the River Yeo have disappeared. It has been over fished on a massive scale.

“It has nothing to do with Brexit or EU quotas but cormorants. These large birds with the ability to swim under water have cleaned out the river. They are formidable hunters and five cormorants can eat a tonne of fish a year.”

Mr Greaves says the birds last preyed on the Yeo 10 years ago, but have ‘returned with a vengeance’.

He added: “The fish stock had been recovering, which led to kingfishers, little egrets and grey herons becoming regular sights. Some have reported seeing otters.

“Cormorants have taken all the breeding silver fish. Now they are attacking the large fish including pike. Even if they cannot kill them they leave them with mortal injuries.

“With no breeding fish it may take 10 years to recover when it is assumed the cycle will reoccur. Cormorants are protected birds so there is little that can be done to reduce or control their numbers.”

The Environment Agency (EA) said it would need to investigate to confirm the extent of depletion to the river’s fish stocks. A past survey found fish levels were good, but this was carried out in 2013 and may not account for the recent invasion of cormorants.

A spokesman said: “Cormorants overwinter on land and feed in inland waters as there is a reduced food supply in the sea during this time due to fish migration.

“Fish become less active during the colder months and are less able to evade predators.

“As the cormorant is a protected species there are limits on what can be done to control predation of fish populations.

“However, due to the significant effect upon fish populations and angling, the EA funds the Angling Trust to help fisheries to protect stocks from fish-eating birds.”

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