A rising population of cormorants and goosanders may be eating large quantities of fish in the river, to the distress of people with fishing rights on a stretch in Hereford and Worcester.
Last autumn the Ministry of Agriculture licensed them to kill a few birds. Yesterday a High Court judge gave the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds permission to seek a judicial review of the ministry's decision to authorise the shooting.
Robin Wynde, RSPB species conservation officer, said the case would set an important precedent. The ministry had claimed it had evidence that the birds were causing serious damage, but was unwilling to disclose details on the grounds that it was 'commercially sensitive' information.
Mr Justice Laws gave the RSPB leave to seek a declaration that the issuing of the licences and the withholding of information were contrary to European Union and UK law.
Mr Wynde said two shooting licences - one for cormorants and one for goosanders (a type of sawbill duck) - had been issued for a 15-mile stretch of the Wye up to the Welsh border. Each covered 15 people believed to own fishing rights.
One of them, Major David Shaw, of Goodrich, Ross-on-Wye, a leading member of the River Wye Preservation Trust, said less than a dozen birds had been shot, purely to find out if they were eating game fish.
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