This is to provide you with an update on our environmental activities over the last 12 months and where we have got to against the wider environmental objectives as described in the Broads Angling Strategy.
- Understanding fish stocks in the Broads
- Fisheries enforcement & Regulation
- Tidal surges
- Toxic algae Prymnesium
- Invasive species
- Managing & adapting to climate
Understanding fish stocks in the Broads
This has made some significant progress on the back of funding from both EA and NE looking to understand the fish stocks and movement across the Northern Broads. We have agreed in principle to continue with the PhD on fish tracking, but are awaiting on the outcome of the environmental permit from the EA on this whole matter. Once it becomes clear on the direction that the EA proposes to take on this with Natural England. We have agreed to work with all parties to find a suitable way forward.
But if the plans are implemented as they currently stand from NE, then we must look at all ways of further challenging this, which will need all our combined efforts and strengths to save the future bream stock across the Northern Broads.
Our modelling on data based on previous surveys and recent annual match catch data, has with the assistance of the IFM proved the understanding in bream stocks and critical spawning linkages to Hoveton Great Broad.
The standard monitoring and fish surveys reporting still remains a critical issue within the EA, as even though additional resource upskilling has been forthcoming, no Broads fish surveys indeed no fish survey reports have been received since 2016. It now appears that both 2017 and 2018 Broad’s hydro acoustic surveys undertaken overnight have corrupted data and therefore not usable. The 2019 survey was undertaken, but again not yet verified and processed. These are the only formal catchment based surveys undertaken to support WFD and other indicators of fish populations. The Broads fishery deserves better than this. 6 years ago the Broads fisheries team were leading the way on such surveys techniques nationally, you have to ask what has changed to lead to this position.
Why is it that the small EA team in Lincs & Northants area and the same in the former Cambs and Beds area can produce these reports with excellent summary analysis and recommendations, when a team of the same size in Essex, Norfolk & Suffolk cannot? Clearly there is an underlying issue of skill/grade to complete this work, which must be addressed urgently. This is something our Chairman has raised many times comparing best practises across the merged East Anglian area, but the management seem unable to resolve. This remains one of the core objectives of the Broads Angling Strategy, signed off by the EA. This must be addressed, whatever the outcome on Hoveton, as having an agreed set of measures in place and the underlining resources to produce them must be one of our key objectives moving forward and is something we must escalate further into the senior area management team for resolution.
Fisheries enforcement & Regulation
Last year the PAC launched a campaign against Summer Pike Fishing, this needs a review and see if it should be promoted wider across the Broads to ensure Pike welfare.
We have started to explore the regulatory position on riparian rights on tidal fisheries. This is something we need to explore further and follow the outcome of a court case action later this year.
Toxic algae Prymnesium
Since the damaging breakout on the Thurne in the spring of 2015, much progress has been made on this. Thanks to the efforts across the Norwich Research Park and members of BASG, a management practise has been developed and now rolled out across the variance agencies. We are happy to report that the BA have changed their testing regime from costly manual cell counts to that recommended by JIC of using PCR assay analysis for both Prymnesium and Virus automated cell counts. This process was used extensively during last winter’s dredging work on Hickling with weekly samples at 6 locations, an increase in sampling and confidence in the whole process. This sampling continues monthly until next winters planned works start.
The incident processes for managing any outbreak has also now being updated to reflect the techniques tested and verified by JIC, in the use of Hydrogen Peroxide to kill the Prymnesium cells whilst increasing the dissolved oxygen levels. Manuals are updated and hardware purchased to support these emergency procedures, but it’s still awaiting assembly. Why this is the case remains unclear?
Despite this we have closed the Prymnesium working group and now look at the long term proposals to change the way water is managed right across the Upper Thurne, overseen through the Upper Thurne Working Group. We need to agree who will represent BASG at this forum and report back.
As part of the wider submission looking at Hoveton, a study on Cormorant volumes roosting within Northern Broads was undertaken using the BTO Webs bird counts. These recorded a winter average of 1822 birds within the Northern Broads. With Ranworth and Cockshoot broads hosting the majority of birds over the last 5 years. See https://basg.online/northern-broads-cormorant-volumes/ This demonstrates that with a successful annual recruitment these volumes of predatory birds can be sustained within the natural ecology consuming an estimated 136 metric tonnes of fish annually!
There remains concerns across the angling community of Otters and Mink predation, which is certainly prevalent on the upload rivers with Otters. Not that much that can be done with this protected and much loved species. Mink however are a non-native species and are subject to the Norfolk Mink project.
This remains a present issue on both the Bure, Thurne, Yare and Chet.
Steve Lane has scoped a pilot scheme for the implementation of a soft curtain at Acle Dyke. It would be good to understand where this has developed.
The monitoring of such events has in the past being undertaken by some key willing volunteers led by John Currie. We have explored the position of such activities from a Health and Safety risk, as it’s not unusual for this to be in time of foul weather as asking people to go out in small craft in the name of BASG needs formal assessment and appropriate measures. With BASG now joined the Broads Society with its links with Broads Watch, https://www.facebook.com/groups/277817965887612/about/ this is an area to further explore if we want to formally have volunteers engaged in tidal salinity and prymnesium events out on the water. Another area in which we need willing resources to move this forward.
Many of these species are already managed within the Broads Authority volunteer program, apart from Signal Crayfish. If there are eager volunteers willing to engage in such activities across our volunteer & subscriber base, we should explore the existing Broads volunteer groups before considering our own.
So there is a piece of work needed to explore what’s already in existence and the potential interest with anglers to assist.
Our Native White Clawed Crayfish however are subject to a protective status across Norfolk by the Wildlife and Countryside Act. This means any trapping for the Non Native Signal Crayfish requires a special licence, with many constraints. This has led to the river Wensum becoming infested with Signals and little action allowed to remove them within the law. A very frustrating position for anglers and something the Wensum Working Group has explored at length.
Managing & adapting to climate
There is now a key initiative looking into these issues, Broads Futures is a partnership program looking at the future adaption and modelling of the Broad’s with a changing climate and resultant sea level rise. There are plans for future stakeholder engagements and an elected member governance board. For more information
BASG should be represented within the key initiative and is something to discuss how we approach this.
There is also much focus on the Upper Thurne area once again, with a significant replacement investment planned by the IDB on its 24 pumped assets of some £24m. There also is significant focus on land management and protection of saline with a water management plan across the Upper Thurne linked to this. It is planned that the existing Upper Thurne Working Group would become the key consultation group on these matters. Again BASG should be represented within the UTWG and we need to agree who would be willing to undertake this role.
Recommendations and next steps
In summary there are many challenging and complex environmental issues across the Broads, in which angling needs to have a voice and representation. The Environment Group is the focus point within BASG to bring these together and agree how we resource this within our volunteer community.
Be it Directors/Members/Volunteers/Subscribers
If you are interested in becoming part of this journey with us, please reply to this email and let us know what specific environmental issue you’re interested in.
We will then invite you to take part in a virtual zoom meeting of the group to progress this forward.
Mail Distribution numbers
Chair BASG CIC