Thousands of fish rescued from Gilwern Canal

9:43am Thursday 28th November 2013

IT’s a rare sight to see fish experts, dressed in dry suits wading through the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal to rescue thousands of fish.

But that’s exactly what a specialist team are doing along nearly four kilometres of the canal, near Gilwern.

Experts Ian McNeil and James Kirk estimate they will carefully rescue and relocate around 2,500 fish in four days.

The work is part of Glandwr Cymru’s (the Canal and River Trust in Wales) works to repair, restore and maintain the historic canals in Wales this winter.

Mark Lang, chairman of Glandwr Cymru said the section is being drained to allow the Trust’s specialist engineers to carry out a detailed inspection of the concrete lining along the base of the canal which was originally laid in 1976.

The section is sealed off with timber stop planks, having drained 25 million litres of water.

Mr McNeil, 55, managing director of MEM Fisheries Limited, and Mr Kirk, 31, yesterday began the major task of collecting the fish and moving them up the canal to safety using a method known as electrofishing.

The method involves using a hand petrol generator, which creates electricity designed not to harm the fish or affect the wildlife, that is connected to a probe fitted with a loop that emits a current that disables the fish from swimming momentarily. The fish are collected into a bucket using a net.

“The fish are stunned for a few seconds but only feel a tingle and are not harmed,” said Mr McNeil.

Glandwr Cymru’s national ecologist, Dr Mark Robinson, explained: “It’s very important to us that we minimise the impact on wild whenever we have to drain a canal and carry out all the necessary environmental assessments beforehand. In this instance the best thing to do for the fish is to move them upstream to a different stretch of the canal. We employ a specialist fish rescue team to do this, and by doing the work in the winter, we aren’t interrupting any breeding seasons.

As the fish begin to rise to the surface by the dozen, Dr Robinson spots roach, perch, ruffe pike and eels.

The team act quickly, putting a fishing net in place behind them to stop the fish from going back down the canal, and scoop them up in their nets by the dozen.

With their buckets full they lift them onto the canal bank, before releasing the fish a short distance away.

This process is repeated several times over four days until all the fish have been removed.

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