MORE than 4,000 fish have been released into the Grand Western Canal following a spectacular bank collapse in the storms last year.
The Environment Agency has restocked the historic waterway after a number of species were lost when more than 16 million litres of water – the equivalent of more than 100,000 bathtubs or 6.5 Olympic swimming pools – flowed through the 23-metre wide breach onto Halberton farmland.
Ian Nadin, head bailiff for Tiverton Angling Club, said: “We really appreciate all the help we have received from the Environment Agency both at the time of the bank collapse and the re-stocking that has taken place since.
“Some additional fish were lost last summer due to excessive algal growth in the canal during the hot weather, so this latest batch of fish is especially welcome.”
The species of fish which have restocked the canal, which lies between Tiverton and Lowdwells Lock, near Holcombe Rogus, include pike, perch, bream, tench, roach and eels after they were washed out of the canal when a section of bank gave way following torrential rain. Water from the canal flooded surrounding fields creating a temporary lake.
Environment Agency officers were assisted by members of the Tiverton Angling Club and launched an emergency rescue mission which successfully rescued and returned more than 400 fish to the canal, but many of the fish trapped in the lake did not survive.
The agency was keen to rescue as many of the larger fish as possible as they are an important part of the canal’s breeding stock.
An initial batch of roach, rudd, tench and bream was released into the canal earlier this year as part of a re-stocking programme. The fish were supplied by the Environment Agency’s national fish hatchery at Calverton in Northamptonshire. The hatchery was set up with the sole purpose of replacing fish lost through pollution and other unforeseen incidents.
This latest batch of 4,000 young fish was released into the canal at Sampford Peverell on Tuesday, December 10.
Nick Maye, from the Environment Agency, said: “The bank collapse resulted in the loss of a significant number of fish from the canal. Some were injured and died within days of being washed into the lake. Re-stocking is important because it will speed up the recovery of the fish population.”
Devon County Council, which owns the canal, installed two temporary dams to prevent further loss of water and to allow repairs to be carried out to the damaged section of bank. The work is due to be completed in February 2014.