THE River Eden and District Fisheries Association (REDFA) is extremely concerned about news that up to six beavers will be introduced into an enclosure as a five-year trial in the Lowther sub-catchment (Gazette, January 16, 'Beavers set for county return').

As a major stakeholder representing 70 riparian, landowning and fisheries interests in the wider catchment, we have not been afforded the opportunity to meet and discuss this application with the Cumbria Beaver Group even after repeated requests that commenced in June 2019. Cumbria Wildlife Trust led the partnership steering group that included Natural England, Eden Rivers Trust and the RSPB.

Previous trials have resulted in unintended escapees and illegal releases, which have had major impacts on river corridors. The River Tay is a recent example where illegal release of beavers caused rapid spread within the catchment and resulted in affected river interests shooting beavers because of the damage they caused. Beavers will colonise and alter river habitats, stripping riverbank vegetation, felling deciduous trees, causing erosion by burrowing in banks, building dams, flooding land and foraging on agricultural crops. There are potential upsides to beavers, slowing river flows and extending wetlands, but in our view these fall well short of the negative impacts and ensuing management costs.

Beavers are notoriously difficult to contain in enclosures. They are territorial creatures and offspring will roam. In other countries, bears are their natural predators. Catchment riparian interests will not accept or bear the cost of managing another river species whose escape or wider release has such an impact.

REDFA and its members are looking closely at the approval conditions to see that Natural England as licensing authority and the Cumbria Beaver Group partners have properly considered and planned for such eventualities and will be directly responsible for undertaking mitigation measures over that trial period.

Mike Ashwin

Secretary, River Eden and District Fisheries Association