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Is the burbot extinct in UK?

Mike Webb

Senior Member
I don't think they're still here tbh. Reports and pictures would have surfaced surely.

Having said that, I didn't believe that there was a golden Eagle resident in Wales until it was found dead last year.
 

Mike Hodgkiss

Senior Member
Many moons ago one of the tackle shops in York had a stuffed one that was caught at Stamford Bridge I believe
Rob , just been talking to Chaz Burns about that stuffed Burbot , he said it was in the old York Amalgamation HQ and was stolen along with a number of other mounted fish . Chris Yates wrote a chapter in one of his books where he came up to York and did an investigation trying to find its wherabouts , he failed ....
 

Joe Winstanley

Senior Member
Yes I agree with you. It's like the proposed golden Eagle reintroduction to Wales - fanfared by ERW and then the prospect immediately all but squashed by Natural Resources Wales.
Hi Mike,

Just to clear a couple of things up, Eagle Reintroduction Wales (ERW) are nothing to do with Wilder Britain 'Snowdonia Golden Eagle Project'. It is the latter organisation which has announced proposals to reintroduce golden eagles to Snowdonia.

ERW, which is a coalition of biologists from Cardiff University and the formidable, and highly respected conservation Roy Dennis, have announced no such proposals. Thus far ERW have focused on undertaking a very in-depth scoping exercise which includes mapping the core historical ranges of eagles in Wales (golden and white-tailed) and in-depth habitat assessments and consultations with stakeholders. The project is a long way from making any conclusions as to the viability of eagles reintroductions.

Wilder Britain on the other hand appear to be acting unilaterally. There is a bad smell around this organisation (see below), to say the least and understandably other conservation organisations appear to have distanced themselves from them. It is a shame they are muddying the waters and undermining the responsible approach of ERW.

PS - NRW are very much a fully owned subsidiary of the Farmers Union Wales (FUW), they make the EA and NE over here look good (as evidenced by their approach to the Wye). It would come as no surprise if they opposed any eagle reintroductions and sided with the highly unprofitable, heavily subsidised, often environmentally damaging upland sheep industry such is the hegemony of sheep farming in Welsh land use.

 
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Mike Webb

Senior Member
Hi Mike,

Just to clear a couple of things up, Eagle Reintroduction Wales (ERW) are nothing to do with Wilder Britain 'Snowdonia Golden Eagle Project'. It is the latter organisation which has announced proposals to reintroduce golden eagles to Snowdonia.

ERW, which is a coalition of biologists from Cardiff University and the formidable, and highly respected conservation Roy Dennis, have announced no such proposals. Thus far ERW have focused on undertaking a very in-depth scoping exercise which includes mapping the core historical ranges of eagles in Wales (golden and white-tailed) and in-depth habitat assessments and consultations with stakeholders. The project is a long way from making any conclusions as to the viability of eagles reintroductions.

Wilder Britain on the other hand appear to be acting unilaterally. There is a bad smell around this organisation (see below), to say the least and understandably other conservation organisations appear to have distanced themselves from them. It is a shame they are muddying the waters and undermining the responsible approach of ERW.

PS - NRW are very much a fully owned subsidiary of the Farmers Union Wales (FUW), they make the EA and NE over here look good (as evidenced by their approach to the Wye). It would come as no surprise if they opposed any eagle reintroductions and sided with the highly unprofitable, heavily subsidised, often environmentally damaging upland sheep industry such is the hegemony of sheep farming in Welsh land use.

Interesting, thank you. I can't see it happening personally. I'm no ornithologist, but Scotland isn't that far away and you'd have thought that the birds would have taken up residence without the help of humans if the habitat was suitable.

I'd love to see them though.
 

Joe Winstanley

Senior Member
Interesting, thank you. I can't see it happening personally. I'm no ornithologist, but Scotland isn't that far away and you'd have thought that the birds would have taken up residence without the help of humans if the habitat was suitable.

I'd love to see them though.
Sadly young eagles dispersing from natal territories in the Northern and Western Scottish Highlands and the Western Isles are inevitably drawn to the grouse moors of southern and eastern Scotland where they mysteriously 'disappear'.

There was a remaining male golden eagle in the Lake District which died back in 2016 after living alone for 12 years following the death of it's mate. It was hoped a female from Scotland might fly down but it never happened. Almost certainly due to the grouse moor 'firewall' in the Scottish borders. Apparently this summer a satellite tagged eagle travelled down to Northumberland during lockdown. I believe it.s the first time a tagged eagle has flown so far south.

The welsh eagle is believed to have escaped from captivity, it was around for about 10 years.
 

Mike Webb

Senior Member
Perhaps that's right about the grouse moor 'firewall'. They do seem to like grouse - not many in Wales, so do you not believe that could hinder a reintroduction? 'No grouse here, so let's eat lambs boys!' 😁
 

Joe Winstanley

Senior Member
Given how powerful the sheep farming lobby in Wales almost certainly.

It would be very easy to set-up a scheme to compensate farmers for losses though which are thought be in the 1-3% range.
 

Clive Kenyon

Senior Member
Sometimes you have to wonder about the thought process on these matters.

We have recently holidayed in the Pyrenees where in the higher regions on the French side the authorities have been releasing brown bears following a EU directive designed to reverse the population decline. This area has only two naturally occurring species for the bears to prey on; ibex and mouflon, both rare protected species. Bears eat meat as 25%of their diet and they have discovered that the easiest source of meat are sheep. The French Government is paying out over €300,000 per year in compensation to shepherds for sheep killed by bears. And the farmers aren't happy so it is not a case of them making money out of this. It also takes 150 people, all paid by the French Government, to look after the 60 bear's interests.; i.e. to stop the shepherds shooting them.

The local public were so incensed by a planned release of more bears they blockaded a town and destroyed a building where the public meeting was to be held. The release program was subsequently halted. Pro-bear groups have then successfully sued the French Government for breach of contract and at the same time Spanish authorities are demanding compensation for sheep killed on the Spanish side by bears released on the French side of the border.

Where do these bears come from? Slovenia, where they have such a major bear problem they are shooting up to 1,500 a year. The French have been importing bears from Slovenia; bears that were trapped because they were killing domestic animals, raiding bee hives and causing a danger to the population.

The anti-bear group threatened to disrupt the Tour de France unless Macron met with them. Macron has now promised that no more bears will be released into the Pyrenees, which is a direct contravention of EU policy.

And you think that releasing otters is controversial. 😂
 

Mike Webb

Senior Member
So officially no there are no burbot but just maybe....!
Personally, I'd put belief that burbot still exist just behind belief in the Loch Ness monster, but apparently there is new evidence that Nessie is real, so you never know! 😁
 

Neil Kirk

Senior Member
If an extinct/endangered animal like the burbot is/was native to this country I think there is a good argument for it to be be reintroduced.

Arguments against such reintroduction are frequently about predators but they are a normal part of healthy ecosystems and should be left alone to find a natural balance -no-one throws every pike they catch into the bushes anymore because they are eating the other fish. I have personally witnessed dead barbel on the banks of the Kennet that have been killed by otters so I understand the upset caused but if the Kennet was a fully healthy river there would have been enough barbel to replace them instead of it being seemingly empty of barbel ( I hear that a few decent fish are now being caught) .

If ecosystems cannot find a balance it is generally because human activity has caused the imbalance - over fishing, water abstraction, pollution, climate change etc etc.
 

Rob Weldon

Senior Member
Funny how things turn up just found an old York Amalgamation Specimen Records list 1975 listing a Burbot Eel of 2 pound,not saying it was caught in 1975,but its on the list,could this have been the stuffed fish ?.
This was in the 1975 year book,some very interesting weights compared to today's "specimens".
 
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Joe Winstanley

Senior Member
Sometimes you have to wonder about the thought process on these matters.

We have recently holidayed in the Pyrenees where in the higher regions on the French side the authorities have been releasing brown bears following a EU directive designed to reverse the population decline. This area has only two naturally occurring species for the bears to prey on; ibex and mouflon, both rare protected species. Bears eat meat as 25%of their diet and they have discovered that the easiest source of meat are sheep. The French Government is paying out over €300,000 per year in compensation to shepherds for sheep killed by bears. And the farmers aren't happy so it is not a case of them making money out of this. It also takes 150 people, all paid by the French Government, to look after the 60 bear's interests.; i.e. to stop the shepherds shooting them.

The local public were so incensed by a planned release of more bears they blockaded a town and destroyed a building where the public meeting was to be held. The release program was subsequently halted. Pro-bear groups have then successfully sued the French Government for breach of contract and at the same time Spanish authorities are demanding compensation for sheep killed on the Spanish side by bears released on the French side of the border.

Where do these bears come from? Slovenia, where they have such a major bear problem they are shooting up to 1,500 a year. The French have been importing bears from Slovenia; bears that were trapped because they were killing domestic animals, raiding bee hives and causing a danger to the population.

The anti-bear group threatened to disrupt the Tour de France unless Macron met with them. Macron has now promised that no more bears will be released into the Pyrenees, which is a direct contravention of EU policy.

And you think that releasing otters is controversial. 😂
Much depends on your perspective I suppose. Policy makers need to take a broad view on these matters.

Agriculture in the Pyrenees, like many other upland areas in Europe, is in retreat and rural tourism contributes as much, if not more, to the local economy. Across Europe mobile upland pastoralism (transhumance) is declining for a number of reasons, not least due to the on-going problem of nutrient loss. Each year livestock are moved up the hill in the summer months where they convert grass and herbs into liveweight gain thus removing nutrients which are then moved down to the lower pastures in winter or transported off the farm when the livestock leave as meat and wool. There is no way to replace these losses so over time productivity decreases incrementally each year. There are also socio-economic factors such as the fact that younger generations don't aspire to the hard life of the shepherd and want more lucrative careers in the towns and cities.

I read that around 600,000 sheep are kept in the Pyrenees, and that typically there would be about 10,000 - 20,000 annual mortalities due to various causes. Apparently bears are thought to kill around 250-300 sheep each year - numbers put things in perspective. Apparently farmers are paid above the market rate for losses at a rate of 140 euros per sheep, so the annual compensation bill is someway short of €300,000? Also bear in mind that the average annual subsidy paid to a Pyrenean farmer is €30,000 a year, to receive that payment they don't actually have to keep any livestock since the decoupling of CAP payments in 2004.

I understand that the Pyrenean bear population was estimated at 150-200 bears in 1937, declining to 60-80 animals in 1976 and just 7 by 1990, the reasons cited being hunting which caused a weakening of the gene pool. Personally I can see why biologists thought it prudent to introduce the genetically similar bears from Slovenia. A better option than the alternative option of sitting back and watching a species become extinct. And any costs on the such a project need to be judged against economic benefit to wildlife tourism. The Isle of Mull is a good example, it is estimated that sea-eagles bring in an estimated £5m a year to the local economy due to wildlife tourism - that more than enough to cover the costs of the Sea Eagle Management Scheme (SEMS), and then some. I won't forget renting a holiday cottage of a farmer for a week last year, it was one of 3 cottages he rented out to holiday makers. Yet he was complaining about losing around 10-20 lambs a year to sea eagles (which I think was an exaggeration), he seemed tin-eared to the fact the eagles were actually making him money!
 

Neil Kirk

Senior Member
An interesting post Joe.

Yes, I chose Mull as a holiday destination primarily because I wanted to see a white tailed eagle and if I thought I would have a chance of seeing a bear in the Pyrenees I might be tempted. I have been to the Picos mountains in Northern Spain but the number of bears there is very small and I didn't see one.

There is a lot more hunting (not the Tally Ho with horses type ) in Spain (and other parts of Europe) than here so I'm not surprised that bear numbers dwindled to such a low level.
 

Clive Kenyon

Senior Member
Much depends on your perspective I suppose. Policy makers need to take a broad view on these matters.

Agriculture in the Pyrenees, like many other upland areas in Europe, is in retreat and rural tourism contributes as much, if not more, to the local economy. Across Europe mobile upland pastoralism (transhumance) is declining for a number of reasons, not least due to the on-going problem of nutrient loss. Each year livestock are moved up the hill in the summer months where they convert grass and herbs into liveweight gain thus removing nutrients which are then moved down to the lower pastures in winter or transported off the farm when the livestock leave as meat and wool. There is no way to replace these losses so over time productivity decreases incrementally each year. There are also socio-economic factors such as the fact that younger generations don't aspire to the hard life of the shepherd and want more lucrative careers in the towns and cities.

I read that around 600,000 sheep are kept in the Pyrenees, and that typically there would be about 10,000 - 20,000 annual mortalities due to various causes. Apparently bears are thought to kill around 250-300 sheep each year - numbers put things in perspective. Apparently farmers are paid above the market rate for losses at a rate of 140 euros per sheep, so the annual compensation bill is someway short of €300,000? Also bear in mind that the average annual subsidy paid to a Pyrenean farmer is €30,000 a year, to receive that payment they don't actually have to keep any livestock since the decoupling of CAP payments in 2004.

I understand that the Pyrenean bear population was estimated at 150-200 bears in 1937, declining to 60-80 animals in 1976 and just 7 by 1990, the reasons cited being hunting which caused a weakening of the gene pool. Personally I can see why biologists thought it prudent to introduce the genetically similar bears from Slovenia. A better option than the alternative option of sitting back and watching a species become extinct. And any costs on the such a project need to be judged against economic benefit to wildlife tourism. The Isle of Mull is a good example, it is estimated that sea-eagles bring in an estimated £5m a year to the local economy due to wildlife tourism - that more than enough to cover the costs of the Sea Eagle Management Scheme (SEMS), and then some. I won't forget renting a holiday cottage of a farmer for a week last year, it was one of 3 cottages he rented out to holiday makers. Yet he was complaining about losing around 10-20 lambs a year to sea eagles (which I think was an exaggeration), he seemed tin-eared to the fact the eagles were actually making him money!
Whilst I agree with a lot of what you say it cannot be denied that the transhumance has continued for over a thousand years and that low density stocking levels isn't as need of nutrients as the higher densities of stock in lower levels. And the sheep benefit from supplementary feeding in the winter months when they are confined to lower pastures. The density of sheep in the higher pastures is less than one animal per hectare.

Shepherds are only compensated where it can be proved that a bear is responsible for the loss. Only a fraction of sheep killed by bears are discovered, let alone available for independent examination. If the shepherds were cashing in on these losses they would not be so anti-bear as they are.

The official figures do not take into account losses due to miscarriages, sheep which simply disappear, and sheep which have been plucked clean by vultures so that the cause of death cannot be determined. When only a couple of sheep are lost the work involved in declaring the death may not be considered worth the compensation. These sheep won’t appear in the statistics either.
The problem is further explained in newspaper reports:

More than 600 sheep have died after falling off cliffs in the French Pyrénées this year (2019) in losses linked to the growing number of brown bears in the mountains. This second of three features explores the repercussions of the losses on one farmer.


Jean-Pierre Mirouze is one of three farmers who send his sheep to graze in the mountains above the town of Aston in the French department of Ariège. Some 1,300 animals were to spend the summer months on 1,900 hectares of mountain pasture.
In June, 265 sheep died after plunging off a cliff. Of them, 186 were his own, representing nearly a quarter of his flock of 770.
If the bears cannot find their quota of meat from sheep where would they get it from? The only other species up there are mountain goats - ibex and mountain sheep - mouflon. Both are endangered species and subject to their own protection measures. Except from an artificially increasing number of bears obviously. And bears released in the northern Pyrenees often choose to live in the sunnier side of the Pyrenees so the French bears become Spain's problem.

The big question is; why should bears be re-introduced at all? If you argue the pre-existence factor then you could equally apply that to the UK for wolves and bears. Surely there is a case for letting things pass when the reasons for decline have not been addressed? There are no species that need natural predation. Quite the reverse.

What do the locals think?

Protests increased as two new bears were brought to the Pyrenees in 2018, with at least 1,200 people rallying in the city of Pau and some 200 protesters blocking roads during the reintroduction.

More recently, a spike in reported incidents prompted some 100 mayors and other officials to rally outside state buildings in Toulouse last Tuesday.
Seems like the only people supporting the release of bears in the Pyrenees are those who don't have to suffer them.
 

Mike Hodgkiss

Senior Member
Funny how things turn up just found an old York Amalgamation Specimen Records list 1975 listing a Burbot Eel of 2 pound,not saying it was caught in 1975,but its on the list,could this have been the stuffed fish ?.
This was in the 1975 year book,some very interesting weights compared to today's "specimens".
Rob ,my understanding is that the 2lb weight was not an actual fish caught but just an arbitrary weight which meant that anything verified as over 2lb would be then be the record , the fish in the glass case was a lot bigger than 2lbs .
 

Rob Weldon

Senior Member
Interesting Mike,must admit the one I remember seeing must have been over 2 pound,but time and age can play tricks.So does anyone know.was the glass cased Burbot a locally caught fish,if not how was it in the possession of York Amalgamation.
 
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