Thousands of fish are being moved from Caen Hill lock flight on the Kennet & Avon Canal to a stretch of the Erewash Canal in Nottinghamshire this week. The operation will benefit aquatic wildlife on the Kennet & Avon Canal and re-populate a stretch on the Erewash following a pollution incident in 2012.
The fish, mainly roach, perch and bream, will be temporarily stunned with a low electric pulse from a probe, before being carefully netted and transported to Nottinghamshire by vehicles with specially oxygenated water tanks, where they will be released in to their new habitat.
Caen Hill traditionally sees high levels of fish, because water quality and living conditions are good, and so management of fish levels is required periodically to maintain an ecological balance which is important for dragonflies, damselflies and aquatic plants.
Oda Dijksterhuis, ecologist at the Canal & River Trust, explains: “Species like roach and perch are already in good numbers on the Kennet & Avon Canal and this activity will not only help to restore the fish population on the Erewash Canal following last year’s serious pollution incident but will also help to maintain biodiversity at Caen Hill.
“We have carried out similar relocation projects in the last three or four years at Caen Hill. The results have been fantastic for other aquatic wildlife, with water clarity improving significantly and various rare and special water creatures as well as aquatic plants, such as potamogetons and hornworts, returning that we haven’t seen in the canal for years.
“We’ll take great care of the fish throughout the operation. Our specialist fish rescue contractors use a low electric pulse which stuns the fish, they will then be netted and sensitively transferred to their new home.
The fish are taken from the side ponds on Caen Hill, which were originally designed 200 years ago as ‘holding tanks’ to store the water needed to operate the flight, due to the steepness of the terrain. Together, these side ponds represent one of the largest stretches of open water in this part of Wiltshire and their grassy banks are great wildlife habitat for species including grass snakes, various birds and water voles.
Contractors will introduce the fish to the Erewash Canal in Long Eaton. The canal suffered a serious pollution incident in September following a major fire at the Stanton Ironworks in Stanton-by-Dale. Pollutants from the works leaked into the canal causing oxygen levels to decline suddenly.
We rescued around 90% of fish in affected areas – over 5,000lbs – and relocated them to other parts of the canal untouched by the pollution. The fish now being put into the canal will restore and enhance the fish population and ensure a more even spread of fish along the length of the canal.