Tags fitted to scores of Broads pike and bream to track their every move
PUBLISHED: 15:15 10 November 2017 | UPDATED: 16:05 10 November 2017
It’s not exactly Blue Planet II. But the secret life of some of our own fish will soon be revealed.
Pike and bream in the northern Broads are being fitted with tags so scientists can track their movements around the waterways.
In an aquatic twist on the heat maps that show player movements in football matches, the researchers will be able to keep an eye on every move the slippery customers make.
They hope the project will help with the tricky task of managing fish stocks.
The Environment Agency’s Steve Lane said the project was running alongside a PhD study by Emily Winter from Bournemouth University, Fishtrack and Natural England.
“We have divided the area into different zones and since November 6 have been catching, tagging and releasing fish from each of these zones.
“We’re trying to learn a number of things about the fish through the project - where they forage, spawn, move during the seasons, what areas of the Broads they are using, how they react during storm surges and what influence salt plays in tidal areas.”
Rivers included in the project are the Bure, Ant and Thurne.
Mr Lane said using the information the agency could protect areas where fish spawned or even improve them to increase fish stocks.
Local and visiting anglers are assisting in catching fish, which are then transported in live tanks to a mobile base.
Here the fish are anaesthetised before scientists surgically implant an acoustic tag and a pit tag, which will enable them to track the fish for up to three years.
“It doesn’t harm or influence them in any way,” said Mr Lane. “The fish are then returned to the area where they were caught and released.”
He said a network of 45 receivers placed around the Broads picked up the fish when they came within 250-300m of them.
“We’re concentrating on bream and pike at the moment,” he said. “The acoustic tags are expensive and we have enough funding for 135 at the moment. We hope to have 50 fish tagged at the end of this week.”
He said previous tagging projects had turned up startling results. “Some fish show a preference for a certain areas while others appear more nomadic, with bream having being recorded travelling 17km in a night.”