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UK: Happy Fishmas! 'Christmas stockings' of almost 25,000 fish will improve life in the Great Ouse catchment

Anglers' observations show dramatically increased predation in recent years

On 13 and 14 December, the Environment Agency will be stocking up to 25,000 fish into the River Great Ouse and its tributaries.

The fish, ranging from 5cm to 20cm long (2 to 8 inches), will include year-old juvenile chub, dace, roach, bream and barbel fish. They have been specially bred at the Environment Agency's fish farm at Calverton, which is funded by anglers' rod licence fees.

The locations include: the Upper Ouse at Sharnbrook, Radwell, Gayhurst (once home of the British record barbel), Lavendon, Newport Pagnell and St Neots; the River Ivel between Clifton and Tempsford; the Upper Thet and Chub Stream at St Ives.

Fish stocking is one part of the Environment Agency's work to improve river habitats. Their Fisheries teams have been working hard to improve spawning beds, water quality and fish passage across East Anglia, with more work planned in future. It's hoped that these additional stocks will kick start fish populations.

Environment Agency Fisheries Officer, Kye Jerrom, said:
‘We've been stocking fish for decades but how we do that has changed in recent years. Our first choice is improving the habitat so that the river works as a natural fishery. Fish stocking is then used to supplement that work.

"A classic example of this is our investment in protecting the barbel fishery on the River Ouse. Dace and gudgeon populations seem to be making a natural revival and we hope our huge investment in eels is making a difference for this, now protected, species. The stocking plan alongside other fisheries work will help make the Great Ouse an even better fishery, and better for anglers."
Upper Ouse Fisheries Consultative Association and Milton Keynes Anglian Association chairman, Trevor Johnson, said:
"This is a huge shot in the arm for the Ouse – it couldn't have come at a better time. This is how anglers' rod license money should be spent and is the perfect answer to those asking what they get from their rod licence.

"Anglers' observations show dramatically increased predation in recent years, significantly reducing the head of native brood stock, barbel in particular, while too many areas have become incapable of supporting successful spawning and fry recruitment.

"The Environment Agency's habitat and restoration works alone will benefit several species, not just barbel, and it has been enormously encouraging to be able to work with their fisheries staff in such a proactive and constructive way."