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‘Extinct’ fish makes an appearance at Bassenthwaite Lake

'Extinct' fish makes an appearance at Bassenthwaite Lake

‘Extinct’ fish makes an appearance at Bassenthwaite Lake

The vendace is the rarest fish in the UK, and it has made a welcome , albeit unexpected, appearance in Bassenthwaite Lake in the Lake District. This comes more than 10 years after the vendace was declared to be locally extinct. The discovery was only made recently when Bassenthwaite Lake was the subject of a “fish community survey” which recorded a singular young Vendace. It’s small size, only 55mm long, means that it is most likely to be an under yearling which had hatched earlier this year, probably in the spring.

Dr Ian Winfield from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology led this autumn’s survey. He said, “This finding of a single vendace individual is a very pleasant surprise and gives great encouragement to everyone involved in the restoration of Bassenthwaite Lake and its fantastic wildlife.”

Vendace is the UK’s rarest freshwater fish and a relic of the last ice age, with only four native populations ever having been recorded at two lochs in SW Scotland and Bassenthwaite Lake and Derwent Water in north-west England. The populations in Scotland became locally extinct many decades ago, probably as a result of local nutrient enrichment, and vendace were last recorded in Bassenthwaite Lake in 2001. Until recently it was believed that only the Derwent Water remained along with a refuge population in Loch Skene in south-west Scotland, which was established using eggs from Bassenthwaite Lake in the early 2000s.

Dr Winfield and the scientific team have put forward three possible origins for the fish found this autumn. First, it is possible that vendace have actually survived in Bassenthwaite Lake for the last 12 years at very low abundance (below the limit of detection) and may now be increasing in abundance. Second, it is possible that the fish has arrived in Bassenthwaite Lake by moving down the River Derwent from the population in Derwent Water. Third, it is possible that such downstream movement happened some time ago and the individual is the locally-spawned offspring of such colonisers.

The fish community of Bassenthwaite Lake has been monitored by the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology since 1995 in a collaborative project with the Environment Agency. Each year, the abundance and composition of the fish community is assessed using state-of-the-art hydroacoustics (echo sounding) combined with limited netting .

Dr Winfield added, “Continued monitoring of the fish community of Bassenthwaite Lake will help us to understand what has happened and to inform appropriate conservation actions.”

The Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) is the UK’s Centre of Excellence for integrated research in the land and freshwater ecosystems and their interaction with the atmosphere. CEH is part of the Natural Environment Research Council, employs more than 450 people at four major sites in England, Scotland and Wales, hosts over 150 PhD students, and has an overall budget of about £35m. CEH tackles complex environmental challenges to deliver practicable solutions so that future generations can benefit from a rich and healthy environment. can follow the latest developments in CEH research via Twitter and our rss news feed



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