More news on beavers

21 Feb

We reported last August on the introduction of beavers into rivers in Scotland, Devon and Essex.

 
As you will see from this article from yesterday’s Times, beavers have now been introduced into the Frome in Dorset, one of only around 200 chalk streams in the world. The impact that beaver dams and tree felling might have on such a precious and delicate environment seems not to have been fully researched or considered, and local fishing associations together with those further afield on the Test, Itchen and even as far as the Midlands have responded with what they describe as an “accord”. This set of principles seeks to establish the right, where beavers are damaging the environment and habitat of chalk streams and impeding the passage of migratory fish, to remove dams and cull beavers.

 

The comment is well made by the local fisheries association that there are no apex predators for beavers so it is up to mankind to cull them. This may have interesting consequences on attitudes towards cormorants and goosanders, and we eagerly await developments.

 

We will pass no comment upon the expressed views of the chief executive of the Beaver Trust that beavers widening rivers “should thrill anglers because there will be more places to catch fish and more and bigger fish”. It speaks for itself!

 

 
If anyone has difficulties reading the article just drop me a line.

A different kind of virus

12 Jan

Our attention has been drawn to news reported in The Guardian that England, along with ten other countries including Belgium, Denmark and Spain, has approved the “emergency” use of the neonicotinoid thiamethoxam on sugar beet crops. This was in response to lobbying from the National Farmers Union and British Sugar in response to the treat of – yes – a virus (virus yellows disease).

 
When Britain, as part of the EU, agreed to ban all outdoor use of thiamethoxam, Michael Gove, then Environment Secretary, stated “The weight of evidence now shows the risks neonicotinoids pose to our environment” and that “Unless the evidence base changes again, the government will keep these restrictions in place after we have left the EU.” A similar application was rejected in 2018 on the grounds that government advisers stated it would “cause unacceptable effects to bees in flowering crops and flowering plants in field margins” and would risk “adversely impacting populations of aquatic insects”.

But yet this chemical has now been approved as sugar beet yields are estimated to drop by up to 25% on previous years. The rejected proposed use of the pesticide to protect beet crops in the east of England in 2018 was estimated by the government to be worth about £18m. So now we can work out the monetary gain for which it is worth damaging insect life in our waterways.

Although this use of thiamethoxam appears to be restricted to East Anglia, and therefore should not directly affect our area, we should keep a very careful eye open for similar relaxation on the regulation of similar poisons and pollutants.

A Return to Angling?

11 Jan

There has been some good news, as DEFRA has announced that “Cabinet Office have now officially confirmed that angling / fishing (incl. sea fishing off private boats, water sports) can be considered exercise and are hence permitted.”

 
Which sounds excellent, but we must all be aware of the limits. The highly-publicised case of the two ladies fined for travelling five miles to walk at Foremark Reservoir is under review, but there are a number of pointers from this that should give us pause before we set out for the river or lake. And we don’t mean that a cup of peppermint tea may be counted as a picnic!

It looks as if there are two main issues that have not yet been fully explained: time and distance.

 
While fishing has been clearly identified as a “permitted reason”, Government guidance states:

 
“You should minimise time spent outside your home, but you can leave your home to exercise. This should be limited to once per day, and you should not travel outside your local area.”

Bearing in mind our responsibilities to others, what length of session could we reasonably justify under the heading “minimise”? A decent walk for daily exercise may be an hour or two – could we justify more than that?

 
Further, the government guidance on “local” is fairly restrictive:

“If you do leave home for a permitted reason, you should always stay local – unless it is necessary to go further, for example to go to work. Stay local means stay in the village, town, or part of the city where you live.”

This would seem to restrict the vast majority of would-be anglers, unless you happen to live in a town or village with a river or lake within its boundaries.

 
So until further, more detailed guidance is made available – or indeed test cases establish the new limits – we would suggest that before setting out to fish, you bear in mind these restrictions and examine your conscience as to whether your trip is justified.

 

The Angling Trust statement on the latest restrictions under Covid-19 is here

Sport England’s FAQ page on the latest lockdown restrictions is here

And the Government guidance may be found here

 

 
Hoping that you all keep safe and keep well.