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Do I Need the Environment Agency?

11.08.14

water pump aerator at the Glebe fishery
The EA incident response team helping to boost dissolved oxygen levels at The Glebe fishery recently

Contributed by Roy Marlow - owner of Mallory Park Fisheries

"Do I Need the Environment Agency?"

This is a question regularly asked by owners of ‘commercial’ fisheries and trout fisheries, usually on private land, totally enclosed, often with no stream or outside water feed having an independent water supply.

Meanwhile, many anglers will often ask why they should buy a rod licence when they only fish ‘private’ waters. Fishery owner Roy Marlow would answer both questions with the following all too recent example...

Roy owns what many anglers regard as the finest commercial coarse fishery in the UK, The Glebe, in Leicestershire, which he runs as a private members’ fishing club; Mallory Park Fisheries. Roy purchased the land, a former potato farm, in the early 1990s, dug lakes and stocked them with prime coarse fish. There are now carp over 20lb, roach over the magic 2lb, perch over 5lb as well as bream, tench and true crucian calling the Glebe home.

On Friday August 1st, at 9am, he received a phone call from a member on the fishery advising him that one of his pools, Glebe Pool 5, had ‘hundreds’ of fish gasping on the surface. Roy had completed his daily post-fishing check, after all the members had gone home, just 12 hours earlier, ensuring that oxygen levels were correct and all the fish were, as he calls them, ‘happy’. Now he is beside the lake and all he can see are quality carp and bream literally sucking air from the surface; a desperate situation.

An early-morning storm had occurred and, just on this one pool, had caused the algae to die, reducing the dissolved oxygen (DO) level. 

This is an extremely rare situation but does happen regularly around the country, not only on private, heavily stocked pools but on lakes, canals and even rivers. It had happened once before at the Glebe so Roy had a contingency plan in place and two oxygenators were soon bubbling away. This is not the solution but could at least stave off what should be an extensive - and expensive - catastrophic fish loss. A reading at one end of the lake showed a DO of virtually zero and just 15% at the other. Those levels are frightening for any fishery owner.

As an angler, and rod licence holder, Roy is well aware of the EA Hotline, a number specifically for emergency situations; a sort of ‘999’ system (it's printed on your rod licence when you need it - 0800 80 70 60). At 10am he called that number and explained what had happened and within minutes was connected to the Fisheries Department. Roy was told that help would be on the way and at 11am that help arrived, from Nottingham to Leicester.

EA incident response team

The help, better described as the ‘Incident Response Team’, was two experts who immediately unloaded their 4WD vehicle and trailer loaded with emergency equipment and within half an hour three more pumps were working hard. The situation looked to be improving for the fish. It is easy to suggest that Roy could and should have had more pumps available but this situation is rare! Luckily, our rod licence funds the EA Fisheries Department; it’s where every penny of it goes, and they are prepared on our behalf.

Although the aerators were doing their job, the experts felt they needed some help and applied some hydrogen peroxide solution. This chemical (H₂0₂) multiplies oxygen rapidly but can be very dangerous and should only be applied by experts - exactly who the EA had provided. It is often used in incidents of serious pollution, where oxygen crashes have occurred.

By 1pm, four hours after the first sighting of distressed fish, oxygen levels are rising around the lake as the team monitors various areas and by 3pm DO levels have risen above the ‘critical’ level. An hour later the team are confident enough to say their work is done and load up for the drive back to base.

As insurance Roy kept his two aerators running through the night, to boost levels as far as possible and insuring against a night-time drop, a situation that happens every night as algae produces carbon dioxide, having produced oxygen by day, but when algae dies, as it did during the storm, killed by the dramatic temperature drop caused by cold rain and, especially, hail it decomposes rapidly and it is the decomposition that uses up oxygen causing a crash.

The end result currently, 36 hours on, is the loss of about 3-400lbs of bigger fish , plus several hundred fry. It could have been devastating, with 4,000lb of fish and many thousands of fry wiped out.

As Roy said: “I have good equipment, my aerators, that are always on standby, serviced and maintained and it was those that gave me, and the fish, some breathing space but the turning point of the situation was the arrival of the EA Fishery Team; Ryan Taylor and Chris Bradley who knew what was required and acted superbly. They obviously know their stuff and have a great regard for fish stocks and the environment.

So, the next time a fishery owner moans that ‘bailiffs never come’ to his water or that his private lakes don’t get anything from the EA you’ll be able to point them to this story. And for the angler who wonders why he has to buy a licence when he only fishes his club lake, this is where your hard-earned money goes. When situations such as what happened at The Glebe occur, our contribution seems like great value.

Roy Marlow.

For more information, please contact Roy Marlow: <roy@malloryparkfisheries.co.uk> 

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