Severn Seal Set to Stay
Anglers on the River Severn are said to be ‘dismayed’ after a golden opportunity to return a seal in the river to the sea was missed last weekend.
Source: Angling Trust
The Angling Trust has been coordinating efforts to remove the seal from the river in order to protect the fishery. The seal entered Diglis Lock last weekend (27 October 2013) and was retained by the lock keeper, but had to be released because a licence application by the Angling Trust to Natural England, the government regulator, had not been approved.
The Angling Trust has, over the past months, secured the agreement of the Canal and River Trust to allow the seal to be captured on their property, and has persuaded experts from the British Divers Marine Life Rescue charity to attempt a rescue of the animal if it could be trapped in a lock, so that it can be returned to the sea. The Trust then secured Environment Agency support for its application for a licence to capture the animal on the basis of damage to the fishery, and submitted the paperwork. On Thursday last week, an official from Natural England contacted the Angling Trust to advise that more evidence would be required of the damage that the seal was doing to fish stocks before a licence could be issued.
Anglers claim the seal has been eating its way through fish stocks on the river for up to a year and although it had disappeared for several months it appears to have taken up residence in the river and it is thought to be having a major impact on fishing and has been seen eating salmon, barbel, pike, zander, chub and ducks.
Mark Lloyd, Chief Executive of the Angling Trust said:
“An official from Natural England contacted me last week asking us to provide evidence of the damage to fish stocks and to quantify the financial impact on angling club revenues. He suggested that we should apply the same criteria for assessing damage that Natural England require for a cormorant licence under the old system. I could hardly believe my ears. He admitted that he had no expertise in fisheries and that he was a terrestrial ecologist.
I told him that the Environment Agency had conceded that the animal was having a local impact on the fishery and that they supported our application, and I put him in touch with my contacts there. We are all very disappointed that this opportunity to capture the seal humanely has been missed and we will continue to do all that we can to navigate through the last few stages of the bureaucratic maze to get this seal safely back out to sea where it belongs.”
“This really is bureaucracy gone mad and shows how out of touch some of the people are at Natural England when it comes to angling and fisheries. Anglers come from all over the country to fish the River Severn and contribute to the local economy. It should be a simple business to issue a licence for experts to return a marine mammal humanely to the sea and get it out of a freshwater environment where it is obviously eating very large quantities of specimen fish.”