“ALL THE WORK HERE AT CALVERTON IS FUNDED BY ROD LICENCE REVENUE”
We talk to Alan Henshaw, team leader at the Environment Agency’s fish farm in Notts
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.