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Saboteurs suspected as 50,000 fish are released in reservoir
January 28, 2006
Animal liberation saboteurs are believed to have released more than 50,000 small farmed fish into a reservoir in what may be an escalation of their campaign against caged animals.
The young rainbow trout, which were being reared for angling in pens covered with nets, spilled into Bewl Water reservoir near Lamberhurst in Kent when nine out of 10 large cages were tampered with early yesterday morning.
Fish farm workers said the operation would have taken time and resources and needed several people and an inflatable dinghy. "Whoever did this deliberately spilled the fish into the lake," said Bewl Water's head ranger, Tony Lloyd.
"It would have needed considerable determination. The pens are heavy and it was done at about 3am on a very cold, frosty night."
No one has claimed responsibility for the estimated 100,000 pounds damage. Angling organisations yesterday said they feared that an animal liberation group had struck at a freshwater fish farm for the first time.
"It is hugely worrying. I have never heard of this being done before," said Bob West, a spokesman for the Association of Stillwater Game Fisheries Managers.
Anglers have long feared that they would become the focus of attacks from saboteurs after the eventual ban on hunting with dogs.
In recent years, say angling groups, fishing matches have been disrupted, tackle shops and property have been damaged, and threats of violence have been made.
Mink, deer and wild boar farms have been hit, and a salmon farm may also have been targeted.
An East Sussex police spokeswoman said there was no indication yet whether this was the work of vandals or animal rights groups.
According to Southern Water, which owns the reservoir, the fish were being reared for gradual release into the reservoir during the 2006 fishing season, which starts in March.
"About 7,000 fish would have been introduced into the reservoir in late February or early March and the remainder would have been released when they reached the right weight through the summer until September," said a spokeswoman.
"The size of the fish released ranges from only a few ounces and many of the smaller fish will probably not survive because of predators like pike and cormorants."
Bewl Water has been a trout fishery for almost 30 years, with 13,000 permits issued every year. The reservoir is only 30% full following the drought in south-east England.