The owners of a Devon fishery have been ordered to pay nearly £35,000 in fines and costs as part of an Environment Agency crackdown on invasive species.
Checks at Clawford Fishery revealed wels catfish and topmouth gudgeon in several of the 17 lakes on the popular holiday and day-ticket complex which the proprietors did not have a licence for, Barnstable magistrates were told. The owners pleaded guilty.
A £170,000 clean-up operation, funded by rod licence sales money, was launched to remove both species. During the procedure native fish stocks were rescued and held in quarantine while an organic piscicide – a chemical poisonous to fish - was applied to eradicate the invasive species.
Although licences for keeping wels catfish are regularly issued to fully enclosed stillwaters, they posed at risk at Clawford because the lakes flowed into the River Claw which is connected to the River Tamar.
The presence of both the catfish and topmouth gudgeon were seen as direct threat to the waterway’s valuable salmon stocks.
Although only 3 – 4 inches long, the topmouth gudgeon is one of the highest risk species in Europe and consequently is not permitted in any waters. Wels catfish are Europe’s largest freshwater fish and can be a voracious predator.
“Invasive non-native fish pose serious risks to our native species and habitats and are incredibly costly to the angling industry. The Environment Agency is working hard with fishery owners to prevent their spread and where high risk invasive fish are stocked illegally we will take appropriate action to ensure they are contained and removed,” said Matt Brazier of the EA.
The owner of Celtic Lakes Resort in Ceredigion has also been fined a total of £3,300 after being found guilty of keeping sturgeon without a licence.
An investigation was launched after Environment Agency Wales staff became suspicious following a magazine article which suggested that the species were in the lake.
Fishery manager, John Carney, claimed that he kept the fish as pets, but was found guilty by Aberystwyth magistrates.