Did dredging kill Grand Union fish?

October 2017 - Canal & River Trust is cautiously non-committal about a major fish kill on the Grand Union canal, despite claims from local anglers that a nearby dredging operation by the Trust is to blame, but the incident has launched top level investigations at the Trust, as Peter Underwood reports.

The incident involves more than half a ton of fish on the Grove Church section at Leighton Buzzard and is being described as a 'level one' fish kill on the local newspaper's website - with local anglers convinced C&RT is the culprit.

The website quotes Steve Sharp of Luton Angling Club saying that 'many specimen bream, perch and carp' were found floating and dead.

Club chair Dennis Hunt, is convinced dredging the Grand Union Canal was the cause. The news site reports that he said: “The Canal & River Trust have been dredging the canal, everyone knew they were doing it, there were posters up and it has been widely publicised. The consequence of that, we believe, is that it has de-oxygenated the water and killed 1,200lb in weight of fish.

He goes on to complain: “They have not spoken to us, they have been clearing up the mess since last Sunday, it is confined to one stretch of the canal.”

He adds: “We have had an angling licence since 1923 and this is the first time I have seen anything like this and it is due to the dredging, it de-oxygenated the water and killed the fish. We will be seeking compensation and restocking.”

However, there is considerable caution from Canal & River Trust and a spokesperson told The Floater: “We have launched a top level, urgent investigation to discover the cause of this fish kill.

“We have been dredging nearby but, at the moment we don’t know why so many fish died on the canal at Grove Church.”

The Trust seems genuinely puzzled as nothing similar has been reported from dredging operations around the system in recent years. Substantial dredging work is currently under way on the much narrower Macclesfield Canal, with much smaller volumes of water, without any fish deaths.

“Our investigations are still ongoing and we don’t want to speculate as to what may or may not have happened.”

Meanwhile it seems the C&RT investigation will be paralleled by one by the Environment Agency which has said it is 'gathering information for an investigation'.

Photos: (1st) Dead fish at Grove Church Leighton Buzzard, (2nd) Dead fish on the Lancaster Canal – slurry from a farmers field was the culprit. By Bob Jenkins, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13711582, (3rd) Dead fish in the Grand Western Canal By Nilfanion - Wikimedia UK, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47762310.

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