SATURDAYS see the good people at The Angling Trust, the single organisation to represent all game, coarse and sea anglers and angling in this country, take over our blog.
Angling Trust chief executive, Mark Lloyd brings you this week’s blog.
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BEHIND THE SCENES VIEW OF THE SEAL SAGA
THIS week has been eventful to say the least. Over the past three weeks, we have received numerous calls and e-mails from anglers on the River Severn urging us to act to protect the huge numbers of specimen fish that were being eaten by a seal that had come 75 miles upriver in the floods.
We know that one animal cannot destroy the fish populations on an entire river, but we also know that these specimen fish are really important to angling and that they can take decades to grow to that size.
Someone had to stand up for our fish and fishing. We pressed the Environment Agency to act, but they just said that it wasn’t damaging overall fish populations in the river and therefore they wouldn’t do anything.
This is the same EA that has acted to remove seals from fish passes where they were eating salmon and sea trout. It seems that barbel and pike are second class citizens when it comes to protection by the body that you and I pay our rod licences to so that they will “maintain, improve and develop fisheries”.
We issued a press release urging the authorities to act and putting forward a number of solutions that we had worked up with the help of experts in the field of seal recoveries. One of the options that we included, as an absolute last resort, was to shoot the animal to protect the fishery if all else failed.
Animal rights activists and anti-angling groups latched onto this point and used it in the media to criticise anglers. Anti-anglers hi-jacked our Facebook page and pictures of me were doctored to replace my personal best pike with a seal, to give the impression that I regularly went seal hunting.
Amazingly, some of the activists actually believed that those pictures were real. I received hate mail, including some really savage personal attacks. None of this bothered me; I am prepared to take any amount of stick for defending fish and fishing.
The seal, although female, was christened ‘Keith’ and got its own Facebook page, e-mail address and twitter account. Thousands of people flocked to see it and threw it fish and chips.
On Wednesday, we reached agreement to work with the British Divers Marine Life Rescue service to relocate the mammal back to the sea, out of harm’s way and to protect fish stocks. Our original press release had done the job and has focussed minds on getting a solution to this issue rather than allowing it to carry on munching its way through the fishery.
We are working very closely with the BDMLR to find a way of capturing it safely and we are not going to apply for a licence to shoot it. The Environment Agency has continued to sit on its hands.
Shooting was always seen as the very last resort if everyone continued to refuse to take action. We have made this very clear to the media and to the wildlife groups and activists, most of whom now support our stance and appreciate the work that we have done to find a solution which is best for the seal.
This is obviously a very difficult situation to handle, given the level of public attention and the significant damage to the local fishery. We’ve been attacked both for going too far and also for not going far enough, so I think that we’ve probably got the balance just about right.
The whole episode demonstrates the importance of angling having a single representative body that can manage situations like this to protect both fish and fishing.
If you see the seal, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org so that its progress can be tracked and we can help the experts rescue it and get it back out to sea.
Thanks to everyone for your support. If you’re not a member, please join today at www.anglingtrust.net
Click below to see a giant River Severn common carp getting eaten by a seal
Click below to see a River Severn pike getting attacked by a seal
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