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Protecting Rare Fish Species

Sustainability +1 more

UK - A rare and vulnerable species of fish has been moved to higher ground to protect it from the warming effects of climate change. The endangered vendace, the UKs rarest freshwater fish, were transported 500 metres up a mountain, not by 4 x 4, but on the back of llamas. But the unusual spectacle of 25,000 fish being carried up a mountain in this way has a serious story behind it.

As the world changes, vulnerable species such as vendace need to be protected from the warming effects of climate change and its impact on rivers and lakes. That’s why thousands of young vendace have been moved to the cooler, safer surroundings of a Cumbrian Tarn.

The llamas, from a local charity, were the perfect vehicle to transport the fish up the lower reaches of the steep and rugged mountainside to Sprinkling Tarn. These sure-footed creatures carried the newly hatched fish on the lower reaches of the two-hour trek to the clean, cool waters of the Tarn, with the fittest fisheries officers finishing the job off.

This relocation project aims, in partnership with others, to establish a “refuge” vendace population in the Lake District.

Environment Agency Chairman, Lord Chris Smith, said: “Water, wildlife and habitats are already under pressure from a growing population and urban development – and climate change will only add to these pressures.

“Climate change is the biggest environmental challenge facing the world today. In addition to the anticipated warming of lakes and rivers, we may also see an increase in the occurrence of extreme weather events such as floods, droughts and heatwaves. All of these could have an impact on much of the native wildlife in England, especially aquatic species such as the rare and specialised vendace, so we are taking action now to conserve the existing populations.”

“We’ll begin to see more steps like this being taken in the future to safeguard species, such as vendace, from the warming effects of climate change.”

Andy Gowans, Fisheries Technical Specialist for the Environment Agency, said: “In England and Wales, vendace are native only to Bassenthwaite Lake and Derwentwater in Cumbria, but it is believed that the Bassenthwaite Lake population, genetically distinct from that of Derwentwater, is already extinct.

“Last December, we collected eggs from Derwentwater and took them to a hatchery near Dumfries where they were held until hatching. By introducing these vendace into Sprinkling Tarn, where water temperatures will be lower, it will provide an additional element of safeguarding for this endangered species. The fish will be closely monitored, in the hope that a self-sustaining population will be established."