Partnership to protect Broads fish stocks against salt tide threat

Published on Thursday, 03 January 2013 14:37
Posted by Vicki Mitchem

A new project to reduce the threat of major fish kills from salt water surges in the Broads started on Wednesday 3 January.

Sea water naturally influences the lower reaches of Broadland rivers with the changing tides and does not normally cause problems for freshwater fish.

However, during the autumn and winter months strong north-westerly winds and low pressure weather systems over the North Sea can combine to generate surge tides, which can push salt water much further inland than normally occurs.

These salt water surges can trap and kill many thousands of freshwater fish and may have a serious impact on fish stocks in the Broads.

To counter this threat, the Environment Agency is working in partnership with the Pike Anglers Club of Great Britain (PAC) and the Broads Angling Strategy Group (BASG) to increase water quality monitoring during tidal surge events and checks for signs of dead or distressed fish across the Broads network.

Steve Lane, Environment Agency fisheries specialist, said: "Local anglers and the Environment Agency have long been concerned about the potential impact of salt water surges on the fish populations of the Broads.

"It makes real sense to work together to improve our understanding of these events and look for new ways to reduce the risk to fish populations across the Broads system."

The Environment Agency has an existing network of water quality monitoring stations around the Broads which, combined with specialist weather forecasting, can help give advance warning of surge conditions.

Last year it increased its monitoring network in conjunction with the Broads Authority and Natural England. Agency staff can raise a special barrier at Potter Heigham, to protect many thousands of over-wintering fish that take shelter in a local boatyard.

The Agency has used rod licence money to provide specialist water testing equipment and training for the project, enabling local angling volunteers to help monitor salt water levels at many more locations around the Broads during surge events.

Steve added: "The information obtained by local anglers could help us to identify other key sites around the Broads where fish could be protected in the future and inform wider work with partner organisations to assess the risk to the sensitive wetland habitats of the Broads."

BASG member, PAC Regional Officer and Liaison Officer John Currie, said: "To me this whole project shows what can be achieved when anglers and the Environment Agency join forces.

"I am sure we can now contribute to a better understanding of saline incursions. The ecology of the rivers and broads can be devastated by such events.

"A Broads Authority and University of East Anglia report of 2011 stated that of the 511 priority species in the Broads, 63 per cent are intolerant of slightly brackish waters.

"Of the 67 species lost locally, 41 were saline intolerant. We are very aware that we are not only trying to protect fish but the whole eco-system."

Anglers are urged to help protect fish stocks by reporting signs of dead fish, fish in distress, pollution or suspected illegal activities as soon as possible using the Environment Agency 24 hour hotline number 0800 80 70 60.

Source: ©Environment Agency

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