Dip-test could help beat deadly algae in Broads

A simple test to check for toxic algae is set to make huge improvements to fish health and ecosystem

A simple test to check for toxic algae is set to make huge improvements to fish health and ecosystems benefiting fish farming and angling throughout the world.Researchers at the John Innes Centre in Norwich are developing a cost-effective and simple dip-test,giving environmental managers more regular opportunities to establish early indication of Prymnesium.Dr Martin Rejzek (centre) with PhD students Ben Wagstaff and Edward Hems and the samples of water and lab grown algae.Picture: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2014

Scientists are a step closer to catching a toxic algae before it potentially kills swathes of fish in the Broads.

A team from the John Innes Centre in Norwich have been developing a pregnancy-style dip-test to check for Prymnesium, the Golden Alga.

The deadly algae affects still water and brackish systems like the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads. But because it is not visible, the first anglers know about the bloom is once the fish are dead or in distress.

Around 1m anglers visit the Broads every year, making it worth a bumper £100m to the area's economy.

Therefore the work of the four researchers, and support from the University of East Anglia, would mean preventative measures could be put in place to check the water and protect the booming industry.

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Environment Agency fisheries technical specialist Steve Lane said yesterday at Candle Dyke near Potter Heigham that silver fish, pike and eel are among those most at risk, particularly in the River Thurne.

'This algae has the potential to cause massive fish kill and has the potential to be catastrophic,' he said. 'It is vital that we take steps to better inform our understanding and management of Prymnesium.'

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The new test, which would not be available on the commercial market for another five to 10 years but could be ready as a prototype in 18 months, could cost as little as £2 and would allow anglers to test regularly in boatyards.

Lead researcher Professor Rob Field from John Innes said if something is not done to test for the algae quickly, the impact on the Broads could be 'devastating'.

He said: 'We have some of the largest pike in the world on the Broads which attract anglers from all over the world.'

Have you got a Broads story? Email rosa.mcmahon@archant.co.uk

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