A refuge has been established to preserve an endangered species of arctic char fish.
The Environment Agency in partnership with Northumbrian Water is stocking 10,000 juvenile fish into the giant Kielder Water, the largest man-made reservoir in Northern Europe.
48 adult char have already been released into the reservoir in April this year.
Stocks of a rare strain of arctic char have been increasingly threatened in their native water of Ennerdale in the Lake District, so the stocks are being established in Kielder Water as an insurance policy.
At Ennerdale, pine woodland affects the lake by increasing acidity of the water – which in turn causes problems for arctic char reproduction.
A ‘rewilding’ project is being carried out at Ennerdale to move the pines back away from the water’s edge. And while this is happening, some 10,000 juvenile arctic char are being released in Kielder Water to establish stocks there.
The young fish, which are two inches long, have been reared at the Environment Agency’s Kielder hatchery.
Richard Bond, Hatchery Manager, said: “These fish are unique. There are around 20 populations of arctic char in the country, and since the last Ice Age they have all adapted to their individual environments, because they don’t return to the sea and mix with other populations.
“Arctic Char prefer cold water conditions and deep lakes so Kielder Water provides the perfect environment for the fish. We hope that the stocked fish will grow and ultimately breed in the streams that enter Kielder reservoir, preserving and protecting this rare strain.”
Don Coe, Waterside Parks Operations and Fisheries Manager for Northumbrian Water, said: “The vast expanse of Kielder Water which holds 200,000 million litres of water – that’s two and a half billion bathfulls – should prove to be a great safe haven for these fish.
“With depths up to 170 feet, a surface area of 2740 acres and a marathon length around its shoreline, it may be some considerable time before we see signs of the success of the stocking but it is reassuring to know that we are playing our part in helping to protect an endangered species.”
Ennerdale has been stocked by fish reared at the Kielder hatchery since 2006. But this is the first time they have been released into Kielder Water.
Any anglers who catch char at Kielder Water must return the fish unharmed, and then inform either the Environment Agency or Northumbrian Water immediately. This will allow information on the survival and distribution of the species to be gathered.
The Kielder Hatchery is operated by the Environment Agency and is the largest conservation hatchery in England and Wales. Up to 900,000 salmon are successfully bred there each year. For more information click here.
Salmon are one of the big six wildlife to be seen by visitors to Kielder Water & Forest Park alongside the ospreys, otters, pipistrelle bats, roe deer and red squirrels.