(Phalacrocorax carbo sinensis)
Three birds of the family Phalacrocoracidae can be found in Britain. We have two subspecies of cormorant: Phalacrocorax carbo carbo (hereafter P. carbo carbo) is a species native to the UK whereas Phalacrocorax carbo sinenesis (hereafter P. carbo sinenesis) is a species from Continental Europe.
Shag Phalacrocorax aristoelis, the third species, is a marine bird which can be differentiated from cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo by a tuft of feathers on its head and a lack of white plumage around the face.
While P. carbo carbo is predominately a coastal bird and causes minimal impacts on inland fisheries, the continental variant P. carbo sinenesis is largely a bird of inland waterways and the rising numbers visiting our waters from mainland Europe can significantly impact fish populations and fisheries through predation. The first recorded inland P. carbo sinensis colony was discovered at Abberton Reservoir, Essex in 1981 (British Trust for Ornithology) and according to the RSPB, there are around 9,000 breeding pairs of comorant (including P. carbo carbo and P. carbo sinenesis species) in the UK and 40,000+ birds overwinter here each year. Differentiating between the two cormorant species is extremely difficult as they are both very similar in appearance.
Where Cormorants are causing significant problems through predation, non lethal methods of reducing predation such as scarers, netting etc should always be implemented in the first instance. As a last resort and to protect fish populations, licences to cull cormorant and other fish eating birds can be applied for from the Natural England. Information on these licenses can be found here. If an individual licence is not suitable due to built up areas etc. It is possible for several fisheries within a catchment area to apply for a group licence, information on this can be found here.
If assistance and advice is required regarding predation we recommend that you contact the Angling Trust Fishery Management Advisor for your region, you can find their contact details here.