Could White-tailed eagles help resolve over-fishing on England’s inland lakes and fisheries by cormorants?

Cormorants blamed for destroying Lake District fish stocks. Anglers fear an invasion of cormorants throughout Cumbria are eating too many fish from the Lake District.  Could the reintroduction of the White-tailed eagle resolve the problem faced by anglers in Cumbria?Observations show a significant increase in the number of cormorants in Cumbria over the past three years. Their toxic droppings are also believed to be responsible for destroying the foliage on trees which then die.

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 Carp as well as cormorant, fox cubs and feral cats found in Polish Sea Eagle eyries. 

Several locations have been marked in Cumbria where colonies are living, including Killington Lake between Kendal and Sedbergh, the River Kent, Lake Windermere, and a site close to Wythburn, off the southern tip of Ullswater. A 150-bird colony has also been dicovered in Raisbeck, near Tebay close to the M6 motorway.

The birds have also been seen at Bolton-le-Sands and Roeburndale in Lancashires’ Forest of Bowland, Garsdale in North Yorkshire, and areas in Cumbria including Drybeck, near Appleby, Kentmere, Esthwaite Water, Marton near Lindal-in-Furness and Great Urswick.

Concerned members of the Kent Angling Association are trying to gather information to take to Defra to show the problem cormorants are causing to fish stocks.

Fears are growing that the Lake District could end up like Lithuania’s Neringa National Park, where hundreds of trees have died since the first cormorants nested there in 1984. But authorities can do nothing to stop them because of their status as protected birds. Cormorants have the same status in Britain as they are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act.

In Scandinavia and in Gemany there has been a direct correlation between an expansion of the White-tailed eagle and a reduction in numbers of cormorants in the last 5 years. In these countries the White-tailed eagle is well-known for it’s predation of cormorants, including hunting many nesting birds at their breeding colonies, much to the delight of local fishermen, and its entirely legal.


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 With so many hungry eaglets to feed cormorants make a fine meal

 Terry Pickford, a member of the North West Raptor Protection Group reflected upon his eight years experience studying and photographing White-tailed eagles in Poland at the nest. Terry said “in the years I worked in the Poznan area numbers of White-tailed eagles throughout Poland expanded from 650 to 950 pairs. As a direct consequence of this spectacular population explosion Polish anglers were delighted when Scientists discovered cormorants which once infested a majority of Poland’s fish ponds were declining due to their predation by White-tailed eagles”. Terry added that he felt the reintroduction of White-tailed eagles into England generally could help resolve many concerns being voiced by anglers associated with cormorants and their adverse affect upon inland fish stocks.

Neil Harnott, senior conservation officer at Cumbria Wildlife Trust speaking about the cormorant, said: “It is a beautiful bird and a graceful fisher that has had a place in human mythology for many years, including being a good luck charm for fishermen”. “They are a native species that is an important component of the biodiversity of Cumbria and one that deserves our continued protection”.

Terry Pickford believes as the White-tailed eagle was once a part of the biodiversity of the English Lake District, by returning a natural predator into the county any in balance caused by too many cormorants catching too many fish could be resolved in an acceptable way without causing any legal or ethical issues.

Many people are also concerned that the continued demonisation of the cormorant could lead to an increase in their illegal persecution. Perhaps after-all the White-tailed eagle could be the answer to the prayers of both sides of this argument?

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 The following information taken from the European Raptor web site supports Terry Pickford’s conclusions regarding the introduction of White-tailed eagles into England:

White-tailed Eagles are known to kill nestlings of other birds, for example Common Buzzards, White Storks or Great Cormorants. Especially a Great Cormorant colony can become a valuable source of food. The cormorants don’t defend their nests as aggressively as other birds like gulls. When a White-tailed Eagle arrives, they mostly panic and leave their nests. It is then easy for the large eagle to kill the young cormorants in the nest. This can have a dramatic effect on the cormorants and their breeding success. Beside the young cormorants killed by the eagles, many eggs get destroyed and young probably die when the adult cormorants leave the nest in panic. In Schleswig Holstein (northern Germany), whole colonies have moved because of heavy predation by White-tailed Eagles. [Kieckbusch & Koop 2008]




4 comments to Could White-tailed eagles help resolve over-fishing on England’s inland lakes and fisheries by cormorants?

  • Coop

    Are we talking about natural fish populations here, or the ridiculously over-stocked match waters? Which are, of course, no differnt to an intensive grouse farm.

  • gamehawker

    intensive grouse farm ????? now that’s a first,do your homework barbel are wild river fish,just like grouse they are not intensively farm reared and stocked,also lake district waters are not intensively stocked,there inhabited by wild brown trout period.

  • Coop

    Barbel, wild? Well you don’t say!!! Pay attention pal. I didn’t mention Barbel in my post at all! I refer to the grossly overstocked stillwaters which are nothing more than feeding stations for piscivourous species. And yes, grouse moors ARE nothing more than intensive farms, where they, the crop, are reared at the expense of our natural heritage; all for tiny minded degenerates to butcher for their own sick amusement. But then I’m sure you know all about that, as it appears you’re stalking this messageboard in an attempt to justify these gutless practices.