As part of our lockdown litter campaign, we wrote to the four leaders of the Black country local authorities. The letter can be read here.
This is the second formal response that I have had from the four borough leaders, the first being a largely positive one from Wolverhampton’s Councillor Ian Brookfield.
This post deals with one that I have had to chase I would state from Dudley’s Councillor Patrick Harley. I have also been supported by my MP Nicola Richards in this regard, and have also made contact with some councillors in some of the problem areas.
Before I get to the response to our letter, I think it fair to state that Dudley at one time did lead the way with championing environmental issues. It published several wildlife leaflets which I have scanned below. They pioneered what I believe was the first “swanwatch” in the area in the mid 90’s with the help of then wildlife crime officer PC Dave Fridays , though I would like to think in Sandwell that we defined it. 😀
This leaflet gave several contact numbers (most of which no longer exist), as well as offering some useful information on swans and their habits etc.
It also outlined some of the main threats to mute swans, (as well as all the other wildfowl), and many of these are sadly still threats.
There was also a leaflet for badgers, but one of interest to this post specifically concerned angling and wildlife.
Information about fishing techniques and practice, including what to do if birds became tackled was given, as well as the message regards litter being lethal, and not just discarded line and hooks.
There was also an angling code of practice, which we would endorse and some of these are repeated in our leaflet.
“In 1996 Dudley’s wildlife watch team and the RSPCA were called out to help dozens of wildfowl caught in discarded tackle. In the worst incident, a swan died in agony with a triple pike hook in its throat with its insides literally (having) been (ripped) to pieces, and on another site, all four cygnets had to have surgery to remove hooks in their gullets. “
It is clear that someone in the council at this time realised that the situation was just not acceptable. I believe that the sites referred to here were The Donkey Pool at Wrens Nest, and The Fens Pool Nature Reserve in Brierley Hill.
Unfortunately, as is so often the case with these “nature reserves”, they are sited next to council estates which can generally be referred to as being “feral”. Off road bikes and horse and carts appear to be the main sources of attraction, as well as fishing, giving the unemployed something to do. The “reserve” part of such sites is largely lost therefore for NATURE. Dudley council were very slow to act to stamp out the cruelty to horses being practiced at one site with illegal fly grazing, (“tradition” my arse), but thanks to campaigners they have now been removed.
There are some people who try to do their best with picking up litter, but I feel they are not getting the full support they deserve, such as The recently formed Friends of Fens pool Nature Reserve.
Myself and other rescue groups have actively been involved on these two sites, as well as that at Parkes Hall Pool and areas along the canals since the production of this leaflet, and things have not improved. As I have stated in an email to Councillor Harley, Dudley this year has been the worst by a country mile for angling related incidents in the four Black country boroughs, with Donkey Pool and Fens Pool nature reserve pools being the worst by far. This is not just my observation, but one which was apparent then from this leaflet, and also one I know having spoken to the RSPCA whose job it is professionally.
This leaflet is not displayed anywhere on any Dudley site, and is also not present on the council’s website. This information however about fishing is on the website, but “recommends” is not really good enough. The rules appear to be totally confused, as ALL FISH SHOULD BE RETURNED ALIVE TO THE WATER!
The message about the angling code from the former leaflet has therefore been lost….. 😥
Let us look at the evidence of this that I have sent to the leader of Dudley, and also one of the Wardens at The Fens pool.
Donkey pool 23/6/20 Caught cygnet- caught and anchored in reeds from leg, hook in beak and line removed. This was the first time in over 20 years that a pair of swans had bred successfully on this pool , and a total of 9 cygnets hatched- the most I saw anywhere in a single brood in The West Midlands county this year.
Parkes Hall pool 23/6/20 Male swan with hook in bill and weight on end, caught and removed. This was only the second year that a pair has also bred on this pool in a generation.
Fens pool nature reserve V. pool. 21/7/20. Caught cygnet with chin strap. One other cygnet dead on pool, suspected vandalism.
Parkes Hall pool. ?/8/20 Male again with hook and weight from beak. On returning next day this had gone. Suspected RSPCA attended.
Fens Pool Nature reserve 26/8/20 Ravens rescue and Scared Animal Wildlife Rescue called out to Grove pool, male swan with line and hook in beak. This incident received widespread social media following and reporting. Male was caught and line removed.
Donkey Pool 2/9/20 Male with nose strap around beak. Again SAWR involved. Rescued with use of boat. Removed line and weed and released.
Fens pool nature reserve- middle pool. 11/9/20. Female swan of pair with line around leg. Caught and removed.
Fens pool nature reserve Grove Pool. 17/9/20 Called out by member of public to cygnet with hook and line in beak. Could not catch.
Returned next day 18/9/20 and caught and removed line
Donkey pool 10/20
Cygnet observed to be not eating, and suspected to have fishing related issue. Caught by SAWR and taken to Wychbold swan rescue, but died. X RAY confirmed that this young bird had swallowed this hook , and it had most likely been pulled causing serious damage to the oesophagus. The angler who caught this bird killed it and left it to suffer.
Initially, before the last horrific incident, I received a rather meaningless response from a warden at the Fens pool, who stated that
“I know the situation at Fens Pools can be distressing however the wardens do try to engage with anglers whenever possible regarding disposal of tackle and other litter. Please feel free to call me regarding this issue.”
After the latest Donkey pool incident, I sent another email to Councillor Harley, in what I would describe as my usual “sandwell” council style. 😀
This is the reply that I received from his PA
“Dear Mr Carroll, thank you for your email to me and recent correspondence with my teams based at Fens Pool Nature Reserve.
As the team have explained, we are very grateful for you sending incidents you have recorded in the Dudley area as we are only as good as the information we have and I can confirm our staff are continuing to patrol the pools on a twice daily basis following the concerns you have raised.
In accordance with our duties under the Wildlife and Countryside Act I can assure you we are committed to improving the welfare of all animals, plants and habitats under our control on our parks and nature reserves and will do all we can to prevent environmental crime and anti-social behaviour.
The incidents you have provided are vitally important as they enable us to build up a picture of incidents and identify any possible patterns in terms of times and locations which helps us when we liaise with the West Midlands Police and Environment Agency on these matters. I understand the team at Fens Pool have contacted the Environment Agency to request additional visits to the site to check rod licences and advise on angling best practice.
We will display the leaflet you have provided on noticeboards around the site to raise further awareness, and I would also ask that you do continue to keep the teams based at our nature reserves informed of any further information you have.
Julie Dunn on behalf of Councillor Patrick Harley, Leader of Dudley Council
PA to the Leader of the Council
Chief Executives, Executive Support Team
It is fair to state, that on my last visit to the Fens pool, one of our lockdown litter leaflets is on display, so that is a positive and welcome step, as at least the anglers on this particular site are being reminded visibly of the damage that litter and poor angling can have.
But that is where my optimism ends I am afraid. It transpires according to the local councillors, that Parkes Hall pool is under the control of Severn Trent Water 😡
There are no bins of any substance at the Donkey Pool at poolside, and no mention of siting any more at the location at this pool which is part of The Wrens Nest “national nature reserve” site in the reply, which I had asked for. 😥 Quite honestly I do not think this pool should be fished at all. It is too small, and has also seen idiots ripping out reeds, (anglers again), as well as magnet fishing taking place. The status to me makes this site, incompatible with fishing. Wrens Nest has also just been awarded a green flag, though I can’t help feeling that as with pools in Sandwell, that Keep Britain Tidy , the awarding body never appear to look very closely at waterside areas when dishing out the fabric.
I really do hope that the wardens and council DO start to report these matters to both the police and the EA, as it is quite apparent for some time that things have got out of control at these sites, and little to no regulation is going on. As far as I am concerned, Dudley council are far from “locking down litter”, but hopefully our campaign and raising the plight of the affected wildlife suffering as a direct result of angling, has challenged them to do better, and again highlighted that this “sport” has devastating effects when practiced by mindless thugs. If you live in the borough, I would urge you to contact your local councillor and MP to put pressure on them to do more, and please reference the evidence in this post to justify your concerns.