THE President of Worcestershire's branch of the Country Landowners' Association has called for shooting and fishing to be defended at a conference at Eastnor Castle.

Jonathon Reeves was speaking at the start of a private seminar called "Scattered Shots: Field Sports in the UK and Europe in the New Millennium" on Friday.

He said that over-regulation, opposition from anti-field sports activists and declining fish stocks present a serious challenge to enthusiasts and a threat to those employed in the sector.

The audience included Dr Dick Potts, director general of the Game Conservancy Trust, Don Javier Hidalgo de Argueso, a shooting enthusiast and conservationist from Andalucia in Spain, and Florus Wijsenbeek, a former Dutch MEP and co-ordinator of the European Field Sports, Fishing and Conservation Intergroup.

Mr Reeves outline the case for field sports in terms of the benefit to the environment.

"Large areas of our beautiful traditional landscapes have been shaped by owners incorporating shooting and fishing objectives into their land management activities," he said. "In some counties, more than half of the established deciduous woodlands we see today were originally planted as game coverts.

"When owners invest in the conservation of game birds and fish for sporting purposes, they are creating and maintaining valuable wildlife reserves which provide feeding and breeding habitats for a host of other fauna and flora, including mammals, song birds, insects, flowers and other vegetation."

On the shooting issue he said there were calls for further "unnecessary restrictions" on the use of shotguns and the partial ban on lead shot was forcing enthusiasts to seek costlier alternatives.

On fishing, he said salmon stocks were falling, partly due to over-fishing by commercial interests at sea, while Right to Roam legislation would create disruption for river management and for anglers.

"All these pressures paint a rather bleak picture for the future of field sport," he said. "But the CLA is determined to do all in its power to defend the right of shooting and fishing enthusiasts to pursue their sports."