It may seem strange that a Fisheries Officer would be attending ‘SOSfest’, a public safety festival! It was filled with stalls manned by the Police, Fire Service, Ambulance and Armed Forces to name a few. My flood resilience colleagues were offering advice on how people can help keep themselves and their properties safe in times of flood. However, our fisheries and environmental crime teams also have an important role during times of flood. Worcester Racecourse, the location of SOSfest, has been home to some of our efforts.
I spent much of the amazingly sunny day talking to people about the aftermath of flooding and the impacts on fish and fisheries. Once people and properties are safe we start assessing the impact on wildlife and fish. In particular I spoke with people about two incidents on the racecourse and why the outcomes of each were so different.
The 2007 summer floods were particularly damaging for fish. This is the time when many coarse fish are in the shallows spawning, and a flooded racecourse seemed like the perfect venue for many fish! Unfortunately when the flood waters receded, fish were trapped in small pools of warm water, that had lower levels of oxygen than cold water, this can lead to suffocation. To make life even harder for the fish the submerged grass started to rot, causing lots of bacteria which also used up oxygen and resulted in a dreadful smell! At this point we were alerted to the plight of the stranded fish, which meant we managed to save tens of thousands of them. However, if we had known about the problem earlier we could have saved even more of the bigger fish, who unfortunately didn’t make it.
The situation for the fish stranded on the Racecourse after the 2014 floods could not have been more different. Fish were again trapped in small pools of water, when they sought refuge from the main flow of the flood water. Whilst the colder weather meant they could survive for longer, the crucial difference was that we were alerted to the problem much earlier. We were able to safely return all the fish to their rightful home.
We are often only alerted to the problems facing our environment and habitats within it by relying on the eyes and ears of the public. You can help make a difference by letting us know of problems early on.
If you spot trapped or struggling fish please call our incident line 0800 80 70 60.
It was interesting speaking to people, many had not thought about all the other impacts that floods can have and our other roles in the Environment Agency. Many anglers were also interested to know that the work to rescue these fish, along with all sorts of other crucial work, is funded by angling rod licence money. Another good reason to buy a rod licence and go fishing!
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