Police investigate cormorant
By David GreenPOLICE are investigating an alleged shooting incident at a lake where feelings are running high between anglers and conservationists over the presence of a colony of cormorants - fish-eating birds.
By David Green
POLICE are investigating an alleged shooting incident at a lake where feelings are running high between anglers and conservationists over the presence of a colony of cormorants - fish-eating birds.
Six shots were heard in the vicinity of Loom Pit Lake in Levington on Tuesday afternoon and the Suffolk Wildlife Trust believes at least one cormorant was killed.
Pc Peter Stewart, community police officer and wildlife liaison officer, confirmed the force was treating the incident seriously.
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He said: “We are making inquiries and we are interested in tracing an L-registration white Ford Mondeo seen in the area at the time.”
Suffolk Fly Fishers, a club which leases the lake, denied any responsibility for the alleged shooting, but said blanks had been fired in the vicinity of the lake to try to scare off the cormorants.
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The club maintained fish stocks - including rainbow trout - were being significantly depleted as a result of the presence of so many of the birds.
The fishing club has been refused permission by the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to shoot the birds, but said it had been given the go-ahead for a scaring programme, consisting of the firing of blank shotgun cartridges and the letting off of fireworks.
Ian Blinkworth, vice-chairman of the 110-member Suffolk Fly Fishers, said no-one from the club had been authorised to shoot cormorants and it had in no way been involved in the alleged incident.
He added it was clear the birds were having a significant impact on fish stocks. “The number of fish we catch has gone down at the same time as the number of cormorants has gone up,” said Mr Blinkworth.
Conservationists are opposed to any scaring programme because they believe it would prevent breeding by the cormorants and by rare egrets which have also begun to colonise the area.
Mick Wright, Suffolk Wildlife Trust warden, called in the police after being told about the shooting incident. He said an eyewitness had heard six shots and seen one cormorant fall “like a brick” out of the sky.
“There is no justification to go in there and shoot or disturb these birds. I would appeal to those fishermen with a degree of common sense to put pressure on those responsible,” he added.
The wildlife trust claimed the impact on the lake's fish was minimal and that the birds - comprising Suffolk's only cormorant colony - were mainly feeding in the adjacent Orwell Estuary.
Terrapins released to the wild by irresponsible pet owners had bred at the lake and were likely to be partly responsible for any depletion in stocks, added Mr Wright, with fish disease another factor.
Julian Roughton, wildlife trust director, said: “I very much hope the mavericks responsible can be pulled into line and some action taken against them.”
Richard Rafe, Suffolk team leader for English Nature, the Government's wildlife agency, said the club was being offered financial aid to help stock the lake and to provide fish “refuges”.
He added: “Our aim is to enable the fisherman and the cormorants to live together side by side.”
n Anyone with information on the incident should contact Suffolk police on 01473 613500.