Wildlife shooting investigated

CONSERVATIONISTS are today investigating reports that cormorants have been shot at near a lake where the birds have been accused of stealing fish.Anglers vigorously denied any pot-shots had been taken at the birds, blamed for depleting trout stocks at Loompit Lake, and believe what people may have heard was an unauthorised pheasant, pigeon or wildfowl shoot.

CONSERVATIONISTS are today investigating reports that cormorants have been shot at near a lake where the birds have been accused of stealing fish.

Anglers vigorously denied any pot-shots had been taken at the birds, blamed for depleting trout stocks at Loompit Lake, and believe what people may have heard was an unauthorised pheasant, pigeon or wildfowl shoot.

Fisherman and conservationists have been at loggerheads for months over the situation at the 34-acre lake, which is leased by the Suffolk Flyfishers club.

The use of shotgun blasts and fireworks to scare the cormorant colony away from the Trimley St Martin lake led to angry confrontations between fishermen and Suffolk Wildlife Trust officials, and now other remedies are being sought.

Fishing club vice chairman Iain Blinkworth said: "Our members will not have been shooting at the birds – that is clearly not allowed.

"The lake's area is now designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest and that means we cannot even use scarers to try to keep the birds away from the fish.

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"At the moment there is nothing that we can do. We have lodged a formal objection to the SSSI and are meeting English Nature in December to discuss the objection and see what thoughts and ideas they may have."

The area was designated an SSSI in April and the protection rules applied from then, although the period for objections did not expire until August. It would seem unlikely though that the SSSI designation would be revoked.

Mick Wright, warden at nearby Trimley Marshes nature reserve, is investigating the reports of shots in woodland near the lake – and urged the public to always report any incidents they were unsure about.

He had spoken to gamekeepers and clubs and there was no authorised shooting taking place.

"We must keep vigilant because these people are not authorised and they are spoiling it for everyone else," he said.

Police were asked to investigate last winter after one cormorant was found shot dead and another with a smashed wing.

The fishing club, which has leased Loompit Lake from Trinity College, Cambridge, for 34 years, stocks the lake with £16,000 worth of fish. But the big black birds have become greedy.

The club applied for a culling licence but was refused by the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The licence would only have permitted five out of the 209 birds counted around the lake to have been killed.

Scare tactics, using blank cartridges and rockets at dawn and dusk to encourage the birds to find other homes, was permitted until the SSSI designation.

But conservationists said it was "wholly unacceptable" and caused birds to take flight in panic and smash into each other.

n What do you think is the answer – should the cormorants be culled? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk.

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