The Environment Agency - England and Wales

Environment Agency teams rescue thousands of fish distressed by the heatwave


Environment Agency teams across the country have been rescuing thousands of fish in distress as a result of the recent weather.

Hot weather combined with low rainfall can make fatal conditions for fish, while heavy intense rain also leads to an increase in diffuse pollution as result of pollutants washed off roads, sewerage systems and from agricultural land.

Rapid changes in water conditions mean that there is little time for fish to acclimatise.

Oxygen levels in the water can become dangerously low meaning that fish are at risk of suffocating or becoming more prone to stress and disease.

Nearly 50,000 fish deaths

Due to the weather, July saw more than 15 separate incidents leading to nearly 50,000 fish deaths, however many more thousands were saved thanks to the swift action taken by Environment Agency teams and partners.

In Welney, Norfolk, the Environment Agency’s fast response to poor water quality prevented huge numbers of fish deaths. Routine monitoring results showed a significant dip in dissolved oxygen levels in the river. Water aerating equipment was installed and teams treated the water daily to increase dissolved oxygen levels.

At Pitville Park Lake in Cheltenham expert teams worked round the clock and used specialist pumping equipment to restore oxygen levels.

Oxygen level drop

In Tiptree village pond, Essex, there were reports of hundreds of fish in distress and approximately 50 dead. When Environment Agency teams arrived on the scene, oxygen levels were down to three per cent. Aeration pumps were used to boost oxygen levels back to a healthy state – at least 40 per cent.

Anglers and other people enjoying the riverside are being urged to promptly report any signs of distressed, diseased or dead fish to the Environment Agency’s incident hotline.

Geoff Bateman, Head of Fisheries and Biodiversity at the Environment Agency, said:

'Long periods of hot weather with low rainfall can be deadly for fish. The Environment Agency has a 24 hour Incident Hotline on 0800 80 70 60 and we encourage anglers and people out enjoying rivers, canals and lakes to call if they see fish gasping for air. With the help of the public we can continue to react quickly and help protect wildlife.

'People at home can also play their part by using water wisely; the less people take from the tap means more for our rivers and the wildlife which they support.'

The Environment Agency is advising owners of ponds and fisheries to keep a close eye on the situation during warm weather and be prepared to respond if fish are in distress. The tell-tale signs of fish in distress are fish gasping at the water’s surface or swimming on their sides or upside down.

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