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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

the 'big lady' barbel is killed by Otter, and anglers call for clampdown !

Reports say that after a week of online voting, the Oregon Zoo's rescued otter pup has been named Little Pudding. More than 5,500 otter fans weighed in, with Little Pudding earning around 36 percent of the votes.  The name refers to a tributary of the Pudding River that joins the main stem in Marion County west of Mt. Angel. Little Pudding, the 4-month-old river otter, was found alone, hungry and dehydrated wandering along Highway 58 near Oakridge last month.

Elsewhere in Britain, anglers are calling  for a clampdown on otters after Big Lady - one of Britain’s biggest and best-known freshwater fish – is killed. The fish, weighing over 20lbs, was the largest barbel living in UK waters. Barbels are group of small carp-like freshwater fish, almost all of the genus Barbus. They are usually found in gravel and rocky-bottomed slow-flowing waters with high dissolved oxygen content. A typical adult barbel will range from 25 to 100 cm in length and weigh anywhere between 200 g and 10 kg. The name barbel derived from the Latin barba, meaning beard, a reference to the two pairs of barbs — a longer pair pointing forwards and slightly down positioned — on the side of the mouth.

Otter is a common name for a carnivorous mammal in subfamily Lutrinae.  Otter  species are all semiaquatic or aquatic, with diets based on fish and invertebrates.  I had posted earlier on Southern Bangladeshi fishermen  utilising them for fishing.  While the aid of ‘otter board’ is understandable, there is the  Bangladeshi tradition involving harnessing mammals up like reindeer as they chase fish into nets.  Fishermen in Narail, 130 miles from capital Dhaka, use the otters to lure fish into their nets though in 25 years the number of families otter fishing has dropped from 500 to 150.  The otters spot fish within the plants and chase them towards the nets; The otters do not catch the fish themselves, instead they chase them towards the fishing net placed next to the boat. …….. this rare technique  has been handed down for centuries in Bangladesh.

In Britain, people are unhappy – as anglers are calling for a clampdown on otters after they killed Britain's biggest and best-known freshwater fish. The fish, nicknamed Big Lady, was seen being dragged from the River Ivel in Bedfordshire by a marauding otter, which tore out its throat and partially ate it. The record specimen weighed more than 20lbs and was believed to be the largest living barbel fish in UK waters.

Big Lady, Britain's largest barbel fish being held by angler Dave Currell in the photo above. The fish has now been killed by an otter, who tore out its throat and partially ate it.  MailOnline reports that six  other large coarse fish have also fallen victim to the otters, which are carnivourous and ferocious hunters, in the same stretch of river in the past three months.

Otters were only re-introduced back on to Britsh waterways in the 1980s after they were on the brink of extinction. But as they have no natural predator, they are said to be booming in numbers and are picking off expensive, cumbersome fish like carp and barbel, putting fisheries and businesses in jeopardy. Now,  the secretary of the Ivel Protection Agency, is calling for fishery bailiffs to be allowed to humanely trap offending otters so they can be moved away from waters stocked with expensive fish.

'Barbel are the most revered sporting fish. They are known as the Prince of the River and are sleek and have a reputation for being fighting machine. To the anglers, barbells are more loved and they say that the place for otters is in countryside but away from fishes, as several fisheries have reportedly gone out of business in recent years due to fish stocks decimated by otter predation.  In 2013, fishery owner Brian Dodson unsuccessfully tried to sue the Environment Agency after he lost £250,000 worth of fish to the furry mammals after an otter haven was set up nearby.

Martin Salter, the campaigns officer for the Angling Trust, said the British waterways were now out-of-balance due to the booming population of otters. He explained: 'Otter predation is a serious issue, especially in small rivers where there are large but vulnerable fish like barbel. 'The natural balance is out of kilter in some areas and the situation hasn’t been helped by ill-advised otter releases by well meaning but naive people.' However, a spokeman for the Environment Agency defended otters, saying they help maintain a healthy eco-system.

One solution often leads to another problem. Large specimen fish tend to dominate rivers, which is not a healthy state for a river. Waters need diversity not just big ones alone.  As much as anglers love to fish for large barbel, and even given them names, sooner or later they will die from disease, in a flood event or be eaten by an otter or other predator.  Otters are one of the most protected animals in Europe. Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act it is an offence to kill one or interfere with their habitat and is punishable by a £5,000 fine or six months in prison.

So, should it be Otters or Barbel ? – can a balance be struck !!

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

30th July 2o15

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