Environment Agency slammed after vague hotline response

An angler desperately seeking guidance as he stood watching 200 bream and dozens of big carp fighting for their lives in inches of water was left stunned by the advice given to him by an EA employee this week.

John Bartling , from Eastbourne, phoned the Agency’s emergency hotline after discovering a fish-kill at Pett Pools near Winchelsea, Sussex. He was informed that an officer had already visited the site, but as most of the fish were dead, it was too late to respond, but John knew this was not the case.

“The person I spoke to didn’t have a clue about the laws of removing fish and told me to do as I liked. What was I supposed to do? We managed to save 32 carp and took them to a nearby venue,” he said.

Water levels at Pett Pools were drained in order to treat Crassula Helmsii, a dangerous pondweed. But local anglers were angered by the operation and claim that the fish were carelessly neglected.

“Pett Pools knew those fish were in there ­ the Mid Kent Fisheries team had even offered to remove them free of charge. Draining the lakes like that is like leaving a dog in a car with the windows shut on a hot day,” said John.

But Stephen Rumsey, owner of the Wetland Trust, which runs the venue, claimed that he was surprised by the number of fish that turned up in the drainage operation.

“We had taken out 350 fish a few weeks ago and did not get an offer to take the remainder away. The weed chokes the water from the surface to 5ft down, killing everything, but the chemicals used to eradicate it do not work in water,” he said.

A spokesman for the EA described the response given to John Bartling as ‘disappointing’, but stressed that fish rescues by members of the public should be avoided.

“We will be taking action to ensure that our staff receive appropriate training to deal with an incident of this sort more appropriately. The site manager was advised that if more fish were seen in distress then a fish rescue should be undertaken,” said the spokesperson.

Pett Pools was sold to the Wetland Trust two years ago. When fishing was allowed, it was one of the first waters in the UK to produce two separate 30lb-plus carp.