CORMORANTS are decimating the endangered Atlantic salmon population in the River Calder, anglers have claimed.

The birds are also damaging the profitable angling industry in Cliviger and the wider area.

Their move inland is believed to have been precipitated by the lack of food found in the Irish sea because of overfishing.

Sand eels, a common name for a number of fish species, are a source of food for many sea predators, but are being used by humans for fertiliser driving many birds and larger fish to find food inland.

Fred Higham, chairman of Ribblesdale Angling Association, said: “They are doing a tremendous amount of damage.”

The River Ribble and the Calder tributary are one of the only places in the country where Atlantic salmon will breed.

One cormorant can eat four full grown Atlantic salmon, sea trout and brown trout a day.

Mr Higham said: “The revenue is down year on year since the cormorants have moved inland and anglers are very concerned not only about the loss of revenue but the loss to the local economy and wildlife.”

Experts have said the number of the birds feeding on rivers across the country has multiplied since the 1980s.

Mr Higham said: “I’ve been a keen angler in the area for more than 60 years and I have never seen so many of the birds.

“You didn’t see them on rivers 20 or 30 years ago.”

Ribblesdale and Clitheroe’s angling associations were granted licences for each club to cull four cormorants a year in 2012, which has been renewed for 2013.

Mr Higham said: “I’m a bird lover, but we have to control predators.”

Super underwater swimmers

  • Cormorants are members of    the pelican family, with all four toes on each foot webbed, which helps them in swimming and chasing fish underwater.
  • They live in coastal areas around Great Britain and
  • Europe, Africa, Asia, eastern North America and Australia, but are often seen inland around lakes and rivers.
  • They are usually around 90cm in length, have a fairly long-neck and are browny-black above, bluish-black below. They also have white patches on their chins and sides of face.
  • They mainly eat fish and some molluscs and crustaceans.
  • Cormorants nest in colonies, sometimes numbering thousands, on rocky cliffs, rocky islets or sometimes by rivers and lakes, even in trees.
  • They are often seen perched with their wings outstretched. This is thought to allow them to dry their large wings quickly.