A dangerous new menace is threatening fish stocks all over the country, Angling Times can reveal this week.
With the current spotlight firmly focused on KHV, the risk posed by a wave of new parasites carried on non-nat ive species has been overlooked for years with potentially disastrous results.
In a bid to identify some of the main threats, the Environment Agency has set up a special taskforce charged with searching for these parasites, and cataloguing them to assess just how dangerous they are to our most popular fish species, such as carp, roach and barbel.
And in a few short months, the Brampton, Cambs-based team, headed by top EA scientist Nigel Hewlett, have found three parasites that have never been seen before, including two unidentified in the UK and which could prove lethal to native fish stocks.
“Due to the legal worldwide trade in ornamental fish and the illegal importation of specimen fish, our native populations are under constant threat from parasites that could arrive in the UK at any time,” explained Nigel.
“Detecting, assessing and managing these new arrivals will prevent the most dangerous, harmful ones from spreading through our fisheries,” he added.
Parasites are often microscopic. Many have a number of different lifecycle stages, only one or two of which require a fish as host.
The Brampton team have studied some which have as many as four life cycles, creatures that can survive being ingested by fish-eating birds only to be transferred to other waters by the bird, where they then infect new fish stocks after being passed on via the birds’ faeces.
Many are not lethal and have been in the UK for decades but others, once they have entered a venue, can kill whole fish populations in a matter of weeks.
And with the reality of global warming set to cause marked increases in water temperature, these invaders and the fish that transfer them are increasingly likely to gain a foothold in this country.
“Once a parasite has spread to more than a handful of fisheries, and particularly if it enters rivers and canals, it becomes almost impossible to eradicate,” said Nigel.
“Anglers are vital to the wellbeing of our fisheries and they can help in the battle against these invaders. Clubs and fishery managers need to get the correct paperwork for stocking fish to ensure they’re health checked by us.
“And anglers need to understand that moving just one fish is all it takes to transfer one of these undesirables into a fishery.
“They can also help be reporting any suspicious fish movements or fish-kills,” he added.