Angling: Agencies and owners work quickly to contain virus

Ulleskelf's father and son duo, Gaz and Kieran Burton with a pike taken only minutes after their match had finished.
Ulleskelf's father and son duo, Gaz and Kieran Burton with a pike taken only minutes after their match had finished.
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The Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquacultural Science – CEFAS – confirmed this week that tests have proven positive for Koi herpes virus at Leeds and District’s Kippax Polo Pond.

The site is now subject to statutory controls to prevent or limit the spread of the disease.

The news to officials of Leeds DASA was released first thing Monday morning and I know that by the afternoon bio-security measures were taken for their other still-water fisheries with chemical net dips and keepnet bans already in place.

Fishery owners and managers are often at the sharp end of anglers’ tongues and opinions, but, after talking personally to a CEFAS inspector and officers of the Environment Agency they all agreed that the actions of those involved to contain the disease within the site had been as good or better as any they had seen across the country.

During the Environment Agency netting it was obvious that a good percentage of the lake’s carp were of loose hybrid Ghost or Koi strains, none of which were ever stocked by Leeds, and, within a day of the results being confirmed, the Environment Agency issued the following (interesting) statement:

“People looking to release unwanted pet fish into local ponds and lakes are urged to find alternatives as the Environment Agency warns of the devastating impact this can have on native species and ecosystems.

“The plea follows recent incidents where goldfish and Koi carp have been caught by anglers, despite the angling clubs concerned never having introduced them into their ponds.

“Some of these ponds have gone on to suffer from major disease outbreaks, killing hundreds of fish. Ornamental fish such as goldfish and Koi carp can carry disease and parasites which can have a devastating effect on coarse fish populations and have major commercial impacts on fisheries.

“They should be kept in garden ponds and not transferred into the wild.”

Jerome Masters, fisheries technical officer at the Environment Agency said: “People don’t see the dangers, but this seemingly harmless thing to do is anything but. A disease carried by Koi carp, the Koi herpes virus, has the potential alone to wipe out all the carp in a fishery.

“If you have fish that you don’t want anymore, you could try getting them re-homed by contacting a local pet shop, garden centre or by placing an advert in the press or online.”

Releasing fish into the wild without getting consent from the Environment Agency is an offence under the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act.

Not only can diseases have a devastating impact on coarse fish, but amphibians are also affected.

The introduction of species such as goldfish into ponds not only increases the severity of diseases for amphibians but also greatly reduces the variety of the species living in the pond.

Goldfish and Koi carp can also interbreed with crucian carp, a threatened species, leaving ponds with hybrid populations.

Some smaller aquarium species such as sunbleak and topmouth gudgeon, can become invasive, outcompeting and outnumbering native fish, and devastating the local ecosystem.

After weeks of watching concerned and worried faces around Kippax Polo Pond it was good to get back on the riverbank at the weekend and witness what our sport should be all about.

Visiting the latest match held on the tidal Wharfe at Ulleskelf it was obvious that a large number of pike were present in the lower pegs of the railway field.

Though bad news for the matchmen as they are not allowed to be weighed in, it made great news for local anglers who made the most of the chance to tackle the river’s top predator.