Village river ‘cleaned out’ by invasion of predatory birds

PUBLISHED: 10:00 28 January 2018

The River Yeo in Congresbury. Picture: James Griffiths

The River Yeo in Congresbury. Picture: James Griffiths

(c) copyright

Bemused anglers on Congresbury’s River Yeo have struggled to net any fish this winter, as predatory birds have ‘cleaned out the river’.

Fishermen have told of an influx of cormorants which have targeted the river, depleting its stocks of roach, perch, bream, dace, tench, and gudgeon.

The ‘formidable’ hunters have ventured inland with a sizable appetite, each scoffing around two pounds of fish per day, leaving anglers with little to catch.

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 the EU quotas but cormorants. These large black birds with the ability to swim under water have cleaned out the river. They are formidable hunters and five cormorants can eat a ton of fish a year.”

Mr Greaves believes the birds last preyed on the Yeo 10 years ago, but they 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 work the river seven days a week and have taken all the breeding silver fish.

“With the numbers reduced the cormorants 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 survey of the water 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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