Britain's rarest fish thriving in new home

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A survey has revealed good numbers of Britain's rarest freshwater fish, the Vendace, in a Scottish loch.

Vendace, Coregonus vandesius, were introduced into Loch Skene in Dumfries and Galloway during the 1990s as concerns grew over their natural population at Bassenthwaite Lake in Cumbria, where the species has since become extinct.

The fortune of those transferred to Loch Skene appears to have been quite different, however. A study carried out by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) has revealed a good population in the loch " with 10 times more Vendace per hectare than the only other population known to remain in Britain.

It is hoped that this population of Vendace, a salmon-like fish from the salmonid subfamily Coregoninae, could be used to re-populate Bassenthwaite Lake following vital restoration work.

Although our overall aim is the conservation of rare fish species such as the Vendace in their native habitats, the use of refuge sites such as Loch Skene is an invaluable approach to avoid the complete loss of a population and its genetic diversity, Ian Winfield of CEH told the BBC.

My hope is that one day we will be able to use the Vendace population of Loch Skene as a source for fish to be reintroduced to a restored Bassenthwaite Lake.

The Vendace has historically been recorded at four sites in the UK; Derwent Water and Bassenthwaite Lake in Cumbria, and Castle Loch and Mill Loch in Lochmaben, Scotland. Today, the only natural population remaining is that at Derwent Lake.

The Castle and Mill Loch populations disappeared at the start of the twentieth century.

It was concerns over the declining population of Vendace at Bassenthwaite Lake during the 1990s, believed to be due to pollution and fish introductions, that prompted an introduction of the fish into Loch Skene. Vendace were last recorded at Bassenthwaite Lake in 2001.