A new plan to save Britain's rarest fish has been hatched by transplanting around 70,000 eggs into a remote Scottish loch.
The Vendace (Coregonus albula) is a small freshwater herring-like fish that has been an inhabitant of deep lochs and lakes in the UK since the Ice Age.
The fish has only ever been recorded in four places in the UK – two in Cumbria and two in Scotland. The species died out in Scotland in the 1960s due to the introduction of introduced species and deteriorating water quality, and only two populations were left in two lakes in Cumbria.
After a series of other attempts at reintroducing the fish into Scottish and Cumbrian water, thousands of Vendace eggs have now been collected from Derwent Water in the Lake District and put into Loch Valley in Galloway Forest Park in the hope a new population of the critically endangered species will flourish.
Dr Colin Bean, freshwater policy adviser at Scottish Natural Heritage, is reported saying in The Scotsman:
"We have been hatching plans to try to establish some new populations in Scotland. Something had to be done quite urgently to establish a refuge for them. It made sense that as they were part of the native fauna of Scotland we should try to establish them here."
Until recently, Loch Valley was considered too acidic due to pollution but it is now thought that the loch has recovered enough. Monitoring will take place in three years to find out whether the fish have become established.
The new plan adds to a smaller trial release in 1990s when eggs and newly spawned fish were introduced to Loch Skeen from Bassenthwaite in Cumbria where they have since become extinct. Recent surveys of the loch have luckily found that the species has done well prompting this larger release.
Another translocation into a site called "Sprinkling Tarn", in the uplands of Cumbria has also been successful and over 160,000 eggs and fry have been moved there since 2005.
The total cost of the operations has been over £100,000. Bean said it was money well spent because it was important not to let the species die out.
"It’s not as if they are doomed because of natural factors," he said. "It’s because humans have introduced non-native species and deterioration in water quality.
"We are not trying to save something that would have gone extinct anyway. We are trying to save something that would not have gone extinct without the impact of humans.
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