HC Deb 20 May 2003 vol 405 cc699-700W
Mr. Rosindell

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent discussions she has had with(a) environmental and wildlife groups and (b) fish farmers and their representative groups regarding the otter population in England; what steps she is taking to protect the otter population in England; and if she will make a statement. [113485]

Mr. Morley

The Otter is protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and the EU Habitats Directive.

The Government strongly supports the UK Biodiversity Action Plan target to maintain and expand existing otter populations and restore breeding otters to all catchments and coastal areas where they have been recorded since 1960.

The Environment Agency and the Wildlife Trusts are the lead partners in pursuing these biodiversity targets. The Environment Agency published the Fourth Otter Survey of England (2000–2002) on Monday 12 May. This confirmed that the increase in otter distribution observed since the first survey in 1977–1979 is continuing. Every one of the 12 regions and catchments into which England was divided for the survey, shows an increase in the positive sites. Otters were present on 73 per cent. of the Local Environment Agency Plan areas surveyed. An increase in otter distribution cannot be directly translated into an increase in otter numbers but such a significant increase in the distribution represents a significant increase in the number of otters on England's rivers and waterways. Full details of the survey can be found at http://www.environmentagency.qov.uk./

My Department and the Environment Agency have had discussions with the Specialist Anglers Alliance on the recovery of otter populations and their concerns about the effects on carp fisheries.