A toxic algae has killed thousands of fish on the Norfolk Broads. Conservation teams from the Environment Agency have managed to net nearly half a million fish from around West Somerton and Hickling Broads and released them into fresher water, like at the Herbert Woods boatyard in Potter Heigham. The fish affected are mostly bream, roach, pike, perch and eels.
"It's very distressing, especially for the public who come past. The Environment Agency are doing a really good job moving that many fish means they've got a chance of survival. If they leave them down at West Somerton there may have been more deaths than 5000. We don't know what's going to happen down there at the moment"
There are concerns that large numbers of dead fish will not only impact the environment but also the essential tourism trade in the area. Angling, alone, is worth an estimated £100 million a year.
"There's been lots of work done on the socio-economic value of angling on the Broads. A recebnt survey undertaken last year shows that 18% of visitors to the Broads take part in angling when they're here. And we don't want their memories of the Broads to be dead fish"
There's no definitive cause of the prymnesium aglae. It's probably existed on the Broads for a century. The algae thrives in mild weather and is probably exacerbated by two elements. salt in the water, either from tidal surges or deep drainage systems and nutrients washing into the rivers from the land"
The fish instinctively move away from the toxin and form giant shoals - often in the same areas where they use up all the oxygen and die. More fish may be moved away in the next few weeks. Meanwhile, scientists from the John Innes centre are working on developing a dipping stick that can be used to test the water. If anyone sees a fish in distress they can contact the Environment Agency