The angling community experienced a collective shudder this week following official confirmation that otters are now present in every single county of England.
Last year a wildlife survey published by the Environment Agency revealed that the species could be found in all areas if the country apart from Kent. However, the EA have now confirmed sightings of the predatory mammal along with holts on both Kent’s river Medway and Eden.
The news will not only serve to further raise fears over the otter’s impact on fisheries across the country, but also of the apex predator’s affect on the UK’s water environments as a whole.
“It’s a huge concern for us on a commercial level, but it’s also very worrying in terms of the affect that releasing these predators into the wild has on the entire ecosystem in and around the waters they’re on,” said Chris Logsdon Jnr, Director of Mid Kent Fisheries. “I’m not opposed to having otters back in Kent, but there needs to be proper research done into how sustainable it is to release them into a specific area before anything else because not only are they having a huge impact on fish stocks, but they then start predating on other animals such as water voles and bird life.
“There also needs to be lessons learnt from other parts of the country where fisheries and wildlife have been decimated by otters after their release into the wild.”
Speaking on the return of otters to Kent, the EA’s National Conservation Manager, Alastair Driver said:
“The recovery of otters from near-extinction shows how far we’ve come in controlling pollution and improving water quality. Rivers in England are the healthiest for over 20 years, and otters, salmon and other wildlife are returning to many rivers for the first time since the industrial revolution.
“The fact that otters are now returning to Kent is the final piece in the jigsaw for their recovery in England and is a symbol of great success for everybody involved in otter conservation
“However, we cannot afford to be complacent. The Environment Agency is committed improving waterways further and will be working with community groups, River Trusts and wildlife and angling organisations who all have important roles to play in achieving this.”