Calls to save our crucians

Experts have warned that crucian carp could become extinct unless action is taken by fisheries and angling organisations.

Often referred to as a ‘bar of gold’, the fish has long been seen as an iconic British species but numbers of the species are declining fast. Many hybrids, caused by a mix of crucian carp and goldfish or king carp, are mistaken for true crucians and Simon Scott, a lecturer at Sparsholt Fisheries College and fish farm owner, said the future is looking bleak.

“Proper crucian carp have been on the decline for 20-years now. They breed with other fish so readily, especially goldfish, and a cross like this is somewhere in the middle of a different species. When you get hybrids crossing with crucians for 10–15 years in a lake they become very hard to tell apart. Goldfish are stocked so readily all over the UK now and it only takes a few unwanted fish from a tank to go into a pond for this to escalate,” he explained.

Efforts are being made to conserve the true crucian carp strain, however, especially in Norfolk. At Rockland Mere Fishery, strains of king carp are being removed to ensure the crucian population does not breed with other species. It’s part of a North Norfolk Biodiversity Action Plan to protect them and create good habitats for them. Chris Turnbull of the Norfolk Anglers Conservation Association is involved and said he wants to see other areas of the country doing the same.

“True crucians are very much small pond fish and don’t breed very well in big lakes and pits. Sadly these small ponds are steadily drying up or being neglected. Unless we make special efforts, we face having just a handful of waters in the country which hold them and that situation is a big risk. It’s commercially viable to create lakes with crucian carp and no king carp, because catching these fish has become a rarity these days. Just look at the success of waters such as Marsh Farm in Surrey which is recognised as one of the best,” he said.

Famous angling writer Chris Yates is a huge fan of crucian carp and said he welcomes any efforts to encourage them.

“I believe it is the only native carp to the UK and it would be a great shame to destroy a population which is at least 5,000 years old. It’s a wonderful, fun fish and I enjoy the subtlety and light tackle required to catch this challenging species.”