'Huge oxygen crash' causes more than 100 fish to die in Newport canal

Action is needed to tackle issues at a Shropshire canal where more than 100 fish died after a 'huge oxygen crash'.

Some of the dead fish which were pulled out of the canal. Picture: Telford Angling Association
Some of the dead fish which were pulled out of the canal. Picture: Telford Angling Association

Members of Telford Angling Association worked tirelessly, using their own pumps, last weekend to try and keep the water oxygenated enough at Newport canal as recent extreme heat and the devastating impact of duckweed took its toll.

The association's chair Jon Portman said volunteers had worked late into the night last Friday and all day on Saturday to help save as many fish as possible - but he said more needs to be done in terms of canal maintenance to ensure similar environmental issues aren't repeated.

"We took more than 100 dead fish out," he said. "Unfortunately lots of bream, tench and perch have been lost and it's a crying shame, really heartbreaking.

"I would imagine there will be more coming to the surface over the next week or two.

"As an angling group, we were quick off the mark. We acted and have done the best we can and I believe we have saved a substantial amount of the fish, using equipment."

A pump at Newport Canal as anglers fought to save as many fish as they could

"We had a couple of pumps on the go and responded by pumping oxygen in, manning them late into the evening.

"We were able to start to increase the levels of oxygen within the basin area of Newport canal to steady things for the night because that's when the worst oxygen drops come.

"There is a major duckweed problem. It grows at an alarming rate and has clogged up all the canal, apart from a bit of basin, and that was the only place for the fish to swim.

"The canal is about two foot of water and four foot of weed at the bottom and a lot of the oxygen has been used up. The readings underneath the duckweed are very low and that's where the problems lie. It needs tackling.

"We rent the canals and pools, so our maintenance is tied to a point. The waters need to be maintained and we are forever fighting to get things done. Money needs to be spent on the canal.

He called for Natural England, Telford & Wrekin Council and others to work together adding: "We have all got to get the boat and row the same way. It hasn't always happened but hopefully it is getting better."

The council said: "Telford & Wrekin Council faces a number of challenges resulting from the climate crisis including extreme weather events and a general warming of temperatures, leading to increased algal growth and rising water temperatures of our static water bodies.

"The pools around Telford and the canal at Newport have seen explosions in plant growth caused by milder winters and longer summers in recent years. In some cases, we are able to remove some of the excessive weed growth and deepen the pools, lowering the water temperature and allowing fish and other aquatic creatures to find refuge in cooler water that is higher in oxygen.

"The council worked with Shropshire Wildlife Trust on an £98k Environment Agency project to de-silt Newport canal a couple of years ago and continues to work with Natural England, the governing body of Sites of Special Scientific Interest (of which the canal is one) to seek further improvements there.

"Telford & Wrekin Council has also facilitated the deepening and removal of excessive reeds at Ketley Paddock Mound, Redhill Ecology Park and is currently working on a major project at Dothill local nature reserve where both Dothill Pool and Tee Lake are set to be excavated to mitigate temperature increases. The council is investing more than £315k to fund this work.

"Unfortunately simply removing the weed isn’t a solution in the case of Newport Canal. Careful management of fish stocks is necessary and this is something we will be looking at more closely with all parties.

"Fishing is not the sole aim of our pools - this site is primarily designated for aquatic plants – and so fish stocks have to be in balance with all the other interests and pressures.

"The council is currently working on plans to improve the towpath at Newport canal as part of its wider vision to enhance and promote the borough’s network of green and open spaces and public rights of way. These include plans to resurface the sections between Fishers Lock and Norbroom Park and topping up the stone on the towpath between Waterside Mews and Tickethouse Lock."

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