Fishery owner sues EA after otters eat 22,000 fish


A fish farmer is suing the Environment Agency after his entire stock of carp was eaten by otters, putting him out of business.

Brian Dodson launched what is being seen as a landmark case at the High Court in Cardiff yesterday after 22,000 carp worth more than £250,000 were wiped out on his fishery near Bangor in Gwynedd, Wales.

Mr Dodson claims that the EA is guilty of a breach of duty and of acting illegally by building holts to encourage otters to breed on the River Cegin, close to his fish farm in Tregarth.

The court heard that in 2009 Mr Dodson decided to sell some of his fish stock and was shocked to discover he had none left, finding only fish bones  in his lakes. He says his business - which he had established back in 1999 - went bust as a result.

Mr Dodson, who is now on state sickness benefits, is suing the EA for £2m to cover the loss of income he says he would have recouped from anglers who used his fishery.

According to a report by Wales Online, he told the hearing: "The Agency has no remit to enhance the habitat for otters such as building holts for them.

"I view what has gone on as unlawful – the Agency has been putting in otter holts totally without authority throughout the country."

He claims the EA breached the Environment Act 1995 as it had a duty of care to consult local landowners when planning the otter initiative - if he had known, he says he would have been able to install fencing to protect his fish from the otters.

He also accuses the EA of failing to carry out a study on the effect the otters would have on the River Cegin.

The EA denies the claims. Its lawyer told the hearing that the agency didn't construct holts for the otters on that site or anywhere else or encourage them by increasing food supplies. He said the work on the River Cegin had been carried out to protect and enhance the environment and to clear rubbish, and that Mr Dodson's claim was ill-conceived.

He also pointed out that information was available from the EA on dealing with otters, but that Mr Dodson hadn't gone to them for advice.
 
The hearing continues today.

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