Hugh Miles Hits Back at RSPB's Magazine Article on Cormorants
Longstanding RSPB member and wildlife film maker Hugh Miles, star of 'Passion for Angling', has hit back at an inflammatory article in a recent edition of the RSPB member's magazine 'Birds' which accuses anglers of being motivated solely by hate in our attempts to control excessive cormorant predation. The author, Simon Barnes, says that anglers exaggerate the amount of fish that cormorants consume and the damage they do to fisheries and other wildlife.
In response, Hugh Miles who ran the RSPB's film unit for over five years says: "I am an angler and proud of the contribution I make to the conservation of all British wildlife and that includes fish. So Mr.Barnes, please don't think for a minute that you speak for all the RSPB membership, or say that anglers hate cormorants and by doing so, incite a hatred of anglers. We are all together in this battle to save our precious wetlands and it would pay us all to remember that and work together."
Angling Trust National Campaigns Coordinator Martin Salter commented: "It's always a shame to see groups with whom we share so much in common when it comes to standing up for the environment, applying double standards and using inflammatory language that only causes unnecessary divisions. Many anglers are bird lovers and a good proportion of RSPB members are, like Hugh Miles, passionate anglers who want to see our vulnerable fish stocks given the same protection from unsustainable predation as that which is afforded to birds and other wildlife."
Hugh Miles' letter appears below.
The article by Simon Barnes from the recent issue of RSPB's Birds magazine can be found online by searching for "Itís Hard to Deal With Hate by Simon Barnes".
Having been a member of the RSPB since childhood, over fifty years in fact, having volunteered to help at many reserves since school days, having run their film unit for five years, having made over sixty films around the world stressing the need to conserve our wildlife, I'd like to express my dismay at the inflammatory language used by Simon Barnes in his article about cormorants/anglers.
Our rivers and their wildlife are in trouble and the RSPB could contribute to the solutions instead of encouraging divisions among those who care. There are many thousands of anglers who support the RSPB's wonderful work and who care passionately about all wildlife, so Mr.Barnes' incorrect assertion that anglers 'hate' cormorants is way off the mark.
Two thirds of our rivers are failing the EU's Water Framework Directive that measures 'good ecological status' and most of these rivers are failing due to lack of fish life. Scientists have counted at least 20,000 cormorants visiting our inland waters every winter, largely from Denmark and the Netherlands, and if scientists are correct, each one needs a pound of fish a day to survive. That means that at least 20,000lbs of our native wildlife is eaten EVERY day. Government surveys have shown that this is threatening the survival of several species on some rivers, including the endangered freshwater eel, which in recent years has suffered a decline of 95%. Eels are an important food for herons, let alone our beloved otters.
Mr. Barnes suggests that fish refuges could be built. These can help a little on some still waters, and there is more that should be done to restore natural refuge habitat on rivers, but these measures alone will not solve the problem affecting rivers and lakes right now. Unsustainable cormorant predation is only one of many problems for our rivers - abstraction, pollution, low flows, siltation, extreme weather patterns and global warming are just a few of the others. We need urgent action on these issues and anglers are pressing for this, often in partnership with the RSPB. However, this will take many years, and fish stocks are suffering today from cormorant predation.
Through their purchase of Environment Agency licences, anglers contribute over twenty four million pounds towards the health and protection of the wildlife of our freshwater rivers and lakes and that includes bird-life. No other recreational water users contribute a penny. Many others support the Angling Trust and Fish Legal, which campaign and take legal action against polluters who damage our rivers and lakes. I am an angler and proud of the contribution I make to the conservation of all British wildlife and that includes fish.
So Mr.Barnes, please don't think for a minute that you speak for all the RSPB membership, or say that anglers hate cormorants and by doing so, incite a hatred of anglers. We are all together in this battle to save our precious wetlands and it would pay us all to remember that and work together.