University College London team helping miracle come true in Norfolk with crucians project

The Crucian Crew get down to recording fish.

The Crucian Crew get down to recording fish. - Credit: Archant

The week just gone, Carl Sayer and his colleagues from University College London were up in north Norfolk busying themselves with their fabulous Crucian Project.

A Norfolk Crucian Carp is one of the most beautiful fish that swims.

A Norfolk Crucian Carp is one of the most beautiful fish that swims. - Credit: Archant

I was fortunate enough to join them for a few hours, watching rearing ponds netted and small fish being checked and weighed and prepared for journeys to other, neighbouring habitats. I saw hundreds of these glistening nuggets of fish. They really are the cheeky chappies of the carp scene and I just love them. Carl and the boys evidently are passionate. And what a good job for all of us that this is the case. A few years ago, they were on the verge of extinction, but not today.

There is just about every reason to rejoice in this initiative. First up, for many of us, crucians were our first fish, our entry into this sport of ours. When I was a lad, and Carl too, there were scores of crucian puddles around north Norfolk and many of us today look back with affection to the start of our journey.

Big crucians, of course, are a different thing, wily as you like, but small ones can be one a chuck and the perfect way to ignite a fishing career.

Put a nugget of gold into the net of a child and he or she is an angler for life.


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Second, I guess the Crucian Project is the best ever example of conservation in action. Carl is an academic, but he's an academic in wellingtons, like all his helpers. This is not random theory in a classroom, but blood, sweat, mud and tears on the bankside.

Carl is typical of the modern environmental age in appreciating the importance of habitat, but he's also got the wisdom to see that the fish themselves are vital, too. Nature can't always do it by herself and Carl and the boys are giving her a helping hand here. No. More an almighty shove to be truthful.

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Thirdly, the project is uniting everyone in a passion to see these little fish proliferate again. Carl brings up his students who love this hands-on work.

Riparian owners everywhere are behind him, enthused by both the science and by the excitement of the whole Project. Everyone helps out. It's not just anglers that see the Project as a force for good in every way and crucians are uniting us all.

Next I think that it's wonderful that conservation on this scale is focusing at last on fish.

How many environmentalists are there who can tell one dragonfly from another, spot the difference between newts at 50 yards and yet not be able to tell a tench from a trout?

What is wonderful about Carl is that he is proving that an internationally renowned conservationist is allowed to concentrate on fish, and not even necessarily a glamour species at that.

We're not talking salmon here, or wild brown trout but our beloved crucians, and that's important in showing every fish species has its rightful place.

Finally, Carl and the boys are restoring history, and not just natural history at that. There is evidence that crucian carp were around during the time of our Stone Age ancestors.

They are as much a part of the Norfolk landscape as any other species you care to name. Not long ago, they were on the verge of extinction and now they are being husbanded back to life.

A real miracle is taking place before our very eyes.

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