Fish out of water at Dale

Lathkill Dale fish rescue, Environment Agency staff stun and catch fish before the river dries up.
Lathkill Dale fish rescue, Environment Agency staff stun and catch fish before the river dries up.

After months of dry weather and receding river levels, life has been getting tough for fish in one Dales river.

But last week saw a major rescue operation aimed at saving our fishy friends.

Lathkill Dale fish rescue, Simon Ward of the Environment Agency shows how the river has already reduced to a trickle

Lathkill Dale fish rescue, Simon Ward of the Environment Agency shows how the river has already reduced to a trickle

On Friday, May 20, fisheries teams mounted an operation to rescue hundreds of fish from the River Lathkill, at Over Haddon.

The mercy mission was required because a 3km stretch of the River Lathkill regularly dries up in the summer.

Lower rainfall leads to the river flow disappearing through the limestone into nineteenth century mines running under the riverbed.

This drying up of the river makes it necessary to relocate the fish to an area downstream that flows all year.

Lathkill Dale fish rescue, Joel Rawlinson and Alex Lumsden putting trout into the transport tank

Lathkill Dale fish rescue, Joel Rawlinson and Alex Lumsden putting trout into the transport tank

Simon Ward, Fisheries Team Leader, said: “The team worked swiftly to remove about 270 fish from the River Lathkill last Friday, where receding water levels had left the fish stranded in deeper pools. They have been moved further downstream, where the river levels remain constant throughout the summer.

“Generally a length of the river dries up between June and August and water returns in October.

“Brown trout then swim back upstream into the problem area in late November before spawning, and these fish, along with their offspring, are then trapped by receding water levels in the following summer.”

The rescue operation used electric fishing equipment to stun the fish, which were then caught in a handnet and put into a tank of water with oxygen.

Simon Ward added that the recent lack of rain had brought forward this year’s rescue operation by a month.

He said: “We are concerned that the continuing dry weather may affect more wildlife, including fish and plant life in and around rivers and lakes.

“This is due to the reduced river flows and lower water levels in lakes and ponds. We are monitoring the situation closely and, like today, will act quickly to alleviate such problems if they occur.”

The East Midlands is experiencing the third driest start to a year on record, mimicking very similar rainfall conditions experienced at the beginning of 1976.

April 2011 was the fourth driest on record. Just 7.8mm of rain fell in the region last month, which is only 14.4 per cent of the long term average.

The Environment Agency is asking those enjoying the environment to keep a look out for problems such as fish gasping for air and to report any concerns to the incident hotline on 0800 807060.

“We will be back at the Lathkill on Thursday, where the second part of the rescue will take place. This is about two months earlier than usual, which has been brought about by the low amounts of rainfall in the area.”

Some rainfall stats for you. They are up to the end of April:

East Midlands Area

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