Refuge created for endangered Arctic char fish

Arctic char released into Kielder water
Image caption About 10,000 Arctic char are being released into Kielder water

A refuge has been created to preserve a rare species of fish which is threatened with extinction from its native Cumbrian habitat.

Numbers of Arctic char have plummeted at Ennerdale in the Lake District because of acidity in the water caused by the surrounding coniferous woodland.

The trees are being moved back from the lake, but in the meantime Kielder Water in Northumberland has become an "ark".

The Environment Agency is releasing 10,000 young fish into the reservoir.

The juvenile fish, which are two inches long, have been reared at the agency's Kielder hatchery.

'Safe haven'

Hatchery manager Richard Bond said: "These fish are unique. There are around 20 populations of Arctic char in the country, and since the last Ice Age they have all adapted to their individual environments because they don't return to the sea and mix with other populations.

"Arctic char prefer cold water conditions and deep lakes, so Kielder Water provides the perfect environment for the fish.

"We hope that the stocked fish will grow and ultimately breed in the streams that enter Kielder reservoir, preserving and protecting this rare strain."

Ennerdale has been stocked by fish reared at the Kielder hatchery since 2006. But this is the first time they have been released into Kielder Water.

Don Coe, fisheries manager for Northumbrian Water, which owns Kielder Water, said: "The vast expanse of Kielder Water, which holds 200,000 million litres of water, should prove to be a great safe haven for these fish.

"But with depths up to 170 feet and a surface area of 2,740 acres, it may be some considerable time before we see signs of the success of the stocking."

The Kielder hatchery is operated by the Environment Agency and is the largest conservation hatchery in England and Wales, with up to 900,000 salmon bred there each year.

The Arctic char is a member of the salmon and trout family.

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