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Country News - 2005

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Conservationists row over cormorants

Wednesday 31 August 2005

A Government decision announced today to allow the shooting of 3,000 cormorants on inland waterways has sparked yet another bitter row amongst rival conservation groups. And it was the second such spat to erupt this week.

Cormorants have been spreading inland for many years, devastating stocks in salmon and trout fisheries which are often important sources of income for remote rural communities.

The birds have been driven from the coast because their main source of prey - sand eels - are being trawled in their millions by continental fishermen who, ironically, process them into fish meal to feed captive farmed salmon.

But stocks of wild salmon, sea trout and brown trout have gone into steep decline in the past two decades and landowners and fisheries managers have lobbied the Government to licence the shooting of cormorants.

However, the move is opposed by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and some advisers at English Nature, the Government's own watchdog.

Meanwhile, north of the border, the now annual slaughter of hedgehogs on the Scottish island of Uist will begin in four weeks time because - according to the Scottish RSPB - the mammals eat thousands of eggs from ground-nesting seabirds.

The cull has been opposed by many mammal conservation societies like the British Hedgehog Preservation Society but the bird lovers have won the argument and cull will start on September 26.

The hedgehogs will be hunted by dogs - which is illegal as a sport in both England and Scotland - but the mammals will be shot.


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