Birding and Angling – Harmony and Dispute

Guest Blogger FatFisherman

Many anglers enjoy wildlife in general and birds in particular and become knowledgeable and passionate conservationists. However, its not all harmony as both passtimes can impact on each other.

Birders and anglers may fall out over the use of certain equipment or techniques that may harm bird populations. For example, some anglers use leadshot in their fishing gear, which can be accidentally ingested by birds and cause lead poisoning. Carelessly discarded fishing lines and hooks can have tragic results maiming or severely injuring birds even leading to avian mortality. Birders obviously view this as harmful to the environment and the bird population and some would ban sport or leisure angling entirely, others call for better regulation or behaviour.

Additionally, birders may object to anglers disturbing prime bird habitats or nesting birds while fishing, which can disrupt breeding and nesting activities. The lack of country code awareness is not confined to some anglers and most are more likely to be sensitive to wildlife needs.

On the other hand, anglers may be concerned about birders disturbing fish habitats or disrupting fishing spots, which can reduce the fish population and impact their ability to catch fish. Anglers may also view birders as getting in the way of their fishing activities, especially if birders are occupying prime fishing locations.

Overall, the conflicts between birders and anglers usually revolve around the conservation of natural resources and the impact of human activities on wildlife populations, or the impact of certain fish-eating birds on fish populations.

Yes, fish-eating birds can have an impact on fish stocks. Fish are an important part of the diet of many birds, including species such as pelicans, cormorants, herons, gulls, and terns. While the effect of birds on fish populations varies depending on the species and the location, in some cases, bird predation can have a significant impact on fish stocks.

For example, in some cases, large colonies of birds can consume large quantities of fish, which can reduce the population size of certain fish species. Additionally, bird predation can have indirect effects on fish populations by affecting the behaviour of the fish, such as causing them to change their feeding or breeding patterns, or by affecting the distribution of fish in certain areas.

For example, gooseanders (also known as common mergansers) can affect salmon levels in certain situations. Gooseanders being large fish-eating birds that are found in freshwater and coastal areas of North America, Europe, and Asia, are known to prey on a variety of fish species, including salmonids such as salmon and trout.

In areas where there are high densities of gooseanders, their predation on salmon can have a negative impact on salmon populations. In some areas of Scandinavia and North America, researchers have observed declines in salmon populations that were associated with high densities of gooseanders.  However, it’s worth noting that the impact of gooseanders on salmon populations can vary depending on a variety of factors, including the abundance of other predators and the availability of alternative prey for the birds. Mono-species fish stocking may mean other food fish are not present for fish-eating birds. Additionally, some research suggests that the impact of gooseanders on salmon populations is far less significant than other factors, such as habitat degradation or overfishing. Overall, while gooseanders can have a negative impact on salmon populations in certain situations, the relationship between these two species is complex and context-dependent.

Cormorants are also seen as very destructive by some anglers. There is no doubt that cormorant species once found near oceans or only in small numbers inland have become much more common at inland lakes and often with several hundred pairs fishing and raising young this can have a major impact on fisheries.

Ospreys taking trout or salmon in the wild has sometimes turned into ospreys taking food from commercial salmon and trout farms.

However, it’s important to note that bird predation is just one of many factors that can affect fish populations. Other factors, such as habitat loss, pollution, overfishing, and climate change have significantly more impact on fish populations.

Freshwater anglers sometimes report birds stealing bait: Some birds, such as gulls, and herons, are known to steal bait from anglers. This can be frustrating for anglers who have spent time and money obtaining the bait.

However, it’s important to note that many anglers also enjoy birdwatching and appreciate the natural beauty of birds in their fishing environments. Additionally, there are laws and regulations in place to protect birds from harm, so anglers should take care to avoid harming birds while fishing.

The impact of commercial fishing on bird populations can be really bad. Sand eels are an important food source for many marine predators, including seabirds like puffins, which feed almost exclusively on sand eels during the breeding season, and a decline in sand eel populations can have a significant impact on puffin populations.

There have been reports of declines in both sand eel populations and puffin populations in certain areas. Overfishing of sand eels has been identified as a potential cause of the decline in some regions. Sand eels are a popular bait fish for commercial and recreational fishing, and their populations can be depleted quickly by intensive fishing. In addition to direct overfishing, climate change can also play a role in the decline of sand eel populations. Changes in ocean temperatures and currents can affect the distribution and abundance of sand eels, making them less available to predators like puffins.

The decline in puffin populations is a concern in itself, but also because these birds are important indicators of the health of marine ecosystems. Efforts to protect and conserve sand eel populations, such as limiting fishing quotas and creating marine protected areas, may help to support the recovery of puffin populations.

All in all most birders and anglers get along fine and are sensitive to each other’s passions… but conflict can occur and we have to be cognisant of the reality of the situation rather than be in denial… that is the first step to conflict resolution.

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