Message from John Currie, Gen Sec of PAC 30th January 2019
I met with Environmental Agency (EA), Natural England (NE), Angling Trust (AT), Broads angling services group (BASG) and representatives from Bournemouth University to hear the latest news of Norfolk’s Hoveton Great Broad (HGB) bio manipulation project.
EA presented their findings on the movement of bream and pike on and off the broad. They have been monitoring these movements for nearly four years using electronic tags and sonar cameras. The PAC have been involved from day 1 and the tagging side of the project has been of great interest and eye opening on distances travelled by pike and bream. It has also helped greatly in understanding fish movements generally.
The PAC had concerns at the start of the project when it was explained the broad would be cut off from the river and bream, roach, pike, carp would be removed in the bio manipulation. I and others pointed out we were aware it was a spawning site for pike. However, after EA’s investigations it appears it has not been used for spawning by pike in the past four years.
What has been shown is the broad is a spawning site for bream. The EA have estimated up to 1.2 tonnes of bream move on and off the broad. We were shown footage from the sonar cameras and shown data from the past 4 years that clearly proved how important the broad is for bream. We also had data from other broads to compare with HGB and clearly these broads were incomparable for fish numbers.
We then heard from NE who explained that the broad was probably not that significant in its importance as a spawning site and bream would spawn elsewhere when the broad was closed off!
However, they also pointed out the closure may have a significant impact for the bream! so take your pick.NE believe the bio manipulation would have a positive impact on the River Bure, water quality etc.NE believe the bream will spawn elsewhere, but seemed oblivious if this would be a successful spawning or not. They have no idea where these new spawning sites will be as they have not found them yet. The bream and NE have that in common at least. NE also suggested the bream may already have an alternative spawning site but alas once again this site had not been found.
We then had a question and answer session. The EA admitted they had concerns about the project, but would not be drawn any further. I told them the idea of locking the bream out of a successful spawning area with no evidence of an alternative site was a terrifying thought for the future of the Bure and Thurne’s bream stocks .EA will be looking at further investigations before the gates are closed on the broad in March 2020. I pointed out this isn't very long compared to the superb investigations carried out by them in the past four years. I also pointed out I am still waiting 4 years on for the PACs original queries about the whole project from NE.
The dredging side of the project is nearly completed, so I hope that does not negatively affect the broad as a spawning site for the bream. It’s also of interest that at the moment some parts of the broad are shallower than before the dredging started.
It is a sad fact that we are seeing more saline incursions on all broads’ rivers, so It seemed a sensible question to ask that what salt levels would endanger the projects aims. NE had no answer, I look forward to hearing hopefully in the near future, not four years.
PAC became involved in the project to protect pike, we feel the bream are just as deserving of our interest and will continue our involvement and hopefully protect them.
The project has shown through the excellent work of Emily Winter that bream and pike leave this broad and visit the both the Rivers Thurne and Ant and come back to HGB. It would be a tragedy that during their wanderings avoiding death from possible saline incursions and prymnesium blooms that there numbers are endangered so a broad can achieve clear water status. I wonder how many bream will be swimming into HGB when the gates are open once again?
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