Dr Shaun Plenty, Senior Aquatic Consultant at Thomson, runs through a morning of fish sampling, followed by an afternoon of assessing the impacts of a development on fish in the River Thames.
An early start as I set off from home to meet the Thomson team at our equipment storage facility. This morning we are netting a village pond that is in the process of being enhanced for wildlife. Our task is to establish what fish species are present, and to advise our client as to whether they are compatible with the wildlife they wish to encourage. After loading up all the nets, tanks and dry suits that we will need, we are soon on the road heading off for what should be an exciting morning.
Health and safety is a number one priority for us, so on arrival at the pond we are greeted by the site manager who checks that all our paperwork is in order. The days’ health and safety briefing follows, with talk quickly turning to what we might catch, and what surprises may be in store.
Ponds such as this one, which can be accessed by the public, are often full of weird and wonderful animals. Whilst goldfish are common in such waters, I have previously encountered sturgeon and even terrapins whilst conducting fish sampling. Unexpected finds have often been introduced to ponds as unwanted pets and can cause significant ecological damage – hopefully we don’t encounter any surprises today!
The first few hours of netting proved to be a success. After several hauls of the net we have caught many of the species that we would expect to find including carp, tench, roach, rudd and perch.
What we did not expect to catch though were several large grass carp! These fish are non-native and would have almost certainly been brought into the UK by the ornamental trade. Our recommendation will therefore be that they are rehomed, something we will be able to advise our client on.
After a debrief with the client about what we found, it’s time to hit the road. We stop for a bit of well earned lunch and have a chat about how the netting went. Despite us all being tired from hauling the net, morale is high. We must be slightly mad to enjoy being in the cold water, covered in mud and weed whilst trying to catch fish. It’s certainly not your average office job but I wouldn’t have it any other way!
Back in the office I have a different focus. I make a start on assessing the impacts on fish which may be caused by a proposed footbridge over the River Thames. The first task is to establish quantities and species of fish living close to the site. The next stage will then assess the impacts on the fish during the construction and operational phases. Often the biggest impact is the noise associated with piling the bridge foundations into the river bed. Like me, fish do not like too much noise!
It’s time to head home where I’m looking forward to some food and a well-earned rest. The fish sampling and assessment projects I have worked on today are both rewarding in that the findings will genuinely help to conserve aquatic habitats and protect the species that rely on them.