We talk to Alan Hen­shaw, team leader at the En­vi­ron­ment Agency’s fish farm in Notts

Angling Times (UK) - - THIS WEEK -

CALVERTON Fish Farm in­tro­duces around half-a-mil­lion fish into our lakes, canals and river sys­tems ev­ery year.

Ever won­dered how much time and ef­fort goes into rear­ing some of our most beloved species?

Alan Hen­shaw is the team leader at the Not­ting­ham-based Na­tional Coarse Fish Rear­ing Unit, where he works daily with a team of ded­i­cated in­di­vid­u­als to help grow the fish of the fu­ture.

An­gling Times caught up with Alan to pick his brains on the daily go­ings on at the En­vi­ron­ment Agency-run fish farm, and the work that’s put into mak­ing sure our rivers are stocked in prepa­ra­tion for the new sea­son.

Q So Alan, what’s it like be­ing the boss of a huge fish farm like Calverton? What goes on in the daily life of some­one who breeds fresh­wa­ter fish?

Alan Hen­shaw: It’s a great priv­i­lege to work at Calverton as part of such a fan­tas­tic team. The work­ing day and work­ing year are very much dic­tated by the sea­sons. My role is var­ied and no two con­sec­u­tive days are ever the same. Each year we stock around 450,000 fish of nine species into wa­ters through­out Eng­land, and this can only be achieved by the hard work and ded­i­ca­tion of my staff.

Q Not many peo­ple know how river species are main­tained in the UK. What’s the rough process or guide­lines you fol­low to en­sure the next gen­er­a­tion of river fish is main­tained?

AH: Many of our in­dus­tri­alised rivers have im­proved dra­mat­i­cally in wa­ter qual­ity terms over the last 30 years. Con­certed re­stock­ing from Calverton has ac­cel­er­ated the restora­tion of the nat­u­ral fish stocks in these wa­ters, and many vi­able fish­eries have been cre­ated.

Q The next river sea­son is just a few days away. How has Calverton pre­pared or been prepar­ing for the new sea­son?

AH: The team here are all an­glers, so we’re look­ing for­ward to the new sea­son. Cur­rently, we’re stock­ing the ponds with the yearold fish that we’ll be re­leas­ing into the wild this com­ing win­ter. We’ve also spawned eight of the nine species that we pro­duce here and the young­sters are grow­ing very quickly. In an­other 18 months (Novem­ber and De­cem­ber, 2019) we’ll be stock­ing these out into lakes and rivers all over Eng­land.

Q Al­most half-a-mil­lion fish are in­tro­duced by the En­vi­ron­ment Agency each year into our rivers – what species are gen­er­ally stocked? AH: Here at Calverton we rear nine

dif­fer­ent species of fish. We start the year in Fe­bru­ary, spawn­ing

grayling and dace, fol­lowed in early May by chub, bar­bel, roach and bream (all the river species). Ad­di­tion­ally we pro­duce a num­ber of species for lakes. From midMay we spawn cru­cians and rudd, and we fin­ish off the sea­son by spawn­ing tench in June.

Q What’s the largest stock­ing of fish car­ried out by Calverton in re­cent years? Where did they go?

AH: We have done nu­mer­ous large stock­ings in the past few years. The River Leadon in Glouces­ter­shire suf­fered a se­ri­ous pol­lu­tion in 2017 and so far, we’ve stocked more than 42,000 chub, roach and dace back into the river.

Q How have Calverton-stocked river fish been get­ting on over the last few years? Are they thriv­ing? Are they marked so that an­glers can tell they are stocked fish?

AH: We go to great lengths to en­sure that all our fish are fit for pur­pose. They are reared in nat­u­ral ponds with con­tin­u­ously flow­ing wa­ter which en­sures they are ex­tremely fit and adapted to life in the river. We also feed them on the high­est qual­ity food, a mix­ture of “na­ture’s best” and spe­cially for­mu­lated pel­lets. Most of our stock­ings are mon­i­tored, and we’ve had great re­sults with the fish grow­ing to adult­hood and spawn­ing them­selves. For us, that’s what suc­cess looks like.

Q Has the de­mand from an­gling clubs to have more fish stocked into their wa­ters risen this year?

AH: All fish pro­duced at Calverton are used by the En­vi­ron­ment Agency to re­stock wa­ters. We don’t sup­ply fish direct to an­gling clubs, as all the stock­ings are car­ried out at the request of our area fish­eries teams.

Q There are lots of threats to our UK river fish nowa­days – what’s the big­gest con­cern, and why?

AH: A wide range of ac­tiv­i­ties and in­ci­dents can have an im­pact on our fish and our rivers. That’s why the sup­port of an­glers and fish­ing li­cence fund­ing is so vi­tal.

All fish­eries li­cence in­come is used to fund work to pro­tect and im­prove fish stocks and fish­eries. Our work in­cludes re­spond­ing to fish kills and, where we can, res­cu­ing fish; im­prov­ing habi­tats for fish and fa­cil­i­ties for an­glers; pro­tect­ing stocks from il­le­gal fish­ing; plus fish re­stock­ing, erad­i­ca­tion of in­va­sive species, and work­ing with part­ners to en­cour­age peo­ple to take up fish­ing for the first time.

Q Par­tic­u­larly on the River Trent, an­glers have been tak­ing scale sam­ples of bar­bel and chub they’ve caught and have sent them back to the En­vi­ron­ment Agency for anal­y­sis. How im­por­tant is the an­glers’ con­tri­bu­tion to fish con­ser­va­tion on rivers?

AH: The con­tri­bu­tion by an­glers to river con­ser­va­tion is ab­so­lutely vi­tal. These peo­ple are the “eyes and ears” on the bank and are of­ten the first to spot and re­port any prob­lems.

All the work here at Calverton is funded by rod li­cence rev­enue, and with­out the sup­port of an­glers, we wouldn’t be able to pro­duce fish and stock rivers the length and breadth of Eng­land.

Q What does the fu­ture hold for Calverton? Is there a long-term plan to keep pro­duc­ing river fish?

AH: Each year we con­tinue to de­velop and re­fine our fish pro­duc­tion at Calverton, and we re­main the En­vi­ron­ment Agency’s sole sup­plier of coarse fish for re­stock­ing rivers. An­nu­ally, we pro­duce around 450,000 fish that are used for re­stock­ing into rivers fol­low­ing pol­lu­tion in­ci­dents, to help re­store fish stocks in re­cov­er­ing rivers and fol­low­ing im­prove­ments in habi­tat. Con­tin­ued sup­ply of these fish is vi­tal to en­able the Agency to carry out its role in pro­tect­ing, main­tain­ing and im­prov­ing river fish­eries through­out Eng­land.

Alan Hen­shaw is pas­sion­ate about river fish wel­fare.

Hand-strip­ping a chub of her eggs.

The ex­ten­sive Calverton site in Not­ting­hamshire.

Year­ling bar­bel bred at the farm in Calverton.

A lar­val bar­bel starts its jour­ney.

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