Monday, 16 April 2012

Shame on the Broads Authority


Since my last post the situation in Norfolk remains worrying. At the end of last week the Environment Agency were called to Catfield dyke which enters Hickling broad’s western side. Literally hundreds of thousands of fish had taken refuge in the dyke to avoid the Prymnesium toxin present in the main body of water. These fish were literally suffocating due to lack of dissolved oxygen in the narrow dyke. It’s a little frightening to note that these fish would rather suffocate than enter the toxic waters of the broad. The good news is, thanks to the swift and efficient action of the EA, who manned pumps round the clock to keep the water aerated, a major fish kill was avoided, this time.

Dead Fish are still surfacing out on the broad; apart from the shoal fish, Roach and Bream many predators too. In fact Perch to five pounds and Pike to thirty five pounds have been discovered over the last few days. These are truly massive fish by anyone’s standards. For every dead fish that surfaces, how many lay undiscovered on the bottom? I don’t know a great deal about Perch but that Pike must be somewhere in the region of fifteen years old and would have defied all the odds, survived predation by it’s own kind as a juvenile, survived the attentions of anglers, survived predation by Otters as an adult and survived the outbreaks of Prymnesium toxin which “Coincide” with dredging work. Now imagine a scenario where an adult Tiger (for example) resident in a nature reserve, was poisoned by the deliberate actions of the authority controlling the reserve. It couldn’t happen could it??


If there’s anyone reading this that hasn’t sent an email of complaint, please write to one of the following;

Or write to your MP, like I did;

Dear Mr Ruffley,

You may remember that this time last year I wrote to you expressing my concern about plans by the Broads Authority to dredge Heigham Sound. You were kind enough to write to Dr John Packman of the BA and included his response in your reply to me (this was actually a copy of a press release the BA issued at the time). To recap, there is historical evidence suggesting that dredging leads to a bloom of the deadly Prymnesium Parva algae which is toxic to fish. The BA dismisses this evidence as “coincidence”.

Although the BA were forced to scale back their original plans they have gone ahead and dredged. As I write this on 14th April a bloom of toxic algae has indeed occurred, as predicted and fish are dying right now. The first occurrence of dying fish was on 2nd April. The toxic water on Hickling Broad forces fish to flee into boat dykes and 25000 fish were rescued by the Environment Agency team led by Steve Lane. These fish were released into the river at Potter Heigham. The EA advised the broads authority to stop dredging right then but the BA ignored this request. A similar situation has occurred over the last two days and hundreds of thousands of fish have been forced off the broad and into Catfield dyke. The EA team are working round the clock to aerate the water and keep these fish alive. The Environment agency has reacted brilliantly and deserve much credit but how much will this be coasting the taxpayer?? As I write, the BA have still not suspended their work.

These fish deaths have occurred about two miles from the work site and the Broads Authority are claiming that this indicates that it has nothing to do with their work. This shows total ignorance and a lack of understanding of water movement by tides, currents and flow. One only has to look at the colour of the water at the northern end of Hickling broad and the change in colour is obvious, indicating visually that sediment is indeed being carried through the system.

It is arguable that this dredging work is necessary at all, anglers who have visited this area since the late seventies state the water is no more shallow now than it was back then. Even if we take a leap of faith and agree that dredging is necessary, it is universally accepted that there are safer methods of doing the work, suction dredging as opposed to the BA’s antiquated clam bucket and crane. It is also universally accepted that it would be safer to work through the winter months when low water temperatures restrict the growth of photo plankton. Once again the BA has ignored this advice.

We now have a situation where the metaphorical horse has bolted and all we can do is wait to see just how bad the fish kill becomes, we could be on the brink of an environmental disater. In 1969, the fish in the upper Thurne system (the river above Potter Heigham, Hickling Broad, Heigham Sound, Duck Broad, Martham Broads and Horsey Mere) were completely wiped out and it took a decade for the system to recover. No fish means no Otters, no Bittern, no Grebes etc. No wildlife will have a drastic effect on the local tourist industry and the local economy in general.

This in itself is extremely upsetting to those of us that cherish the unique environment of the upper Thurne system; the fishing, the bird life and the scenery. To think that the Broads Authority were warned of the consequences of their actions yet carried on regardless is infuriating. To quote from the BA website; “ The Broads Authority was set up in 1989, with responsibility for conservation, planning, recreation and waterways”. Conservation is first on the list but the last thing prioritised in this instance.

Mr Ruffley I urge you to please do whatever you can, by talking to your colleagues in parliament or the Broads authority directly to; A) Ensure an immediate and permanent ceasing of the dredging work and B) hold those that have been negligent to account.

Yours Sincerely

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