The St George Neighbourhood Partnership supports the aims of the Friends of St George Park to improve the lake in the Park for wildlife. Surveys by the group have consistently shown that this aim is also supported by park users.
Fish stock levels in the lake are very high. This, combined with the impact fishing bait has on the lake ecology, means the water quality has been poor with the lake suffering regular summer algal blooms.
Back in 2011 the group commissioned a report from the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust at Slimbridge into the environmental condition of the lake. This report noted that the high fish densities had led to the lake’s ecological status being severely impoverished, with no aquatic vegetation and minimal invertebrate diversity. The report made a number of recommendations to improve the lake, including de-silting and creating shallow areas for bankside, marginal and aquatic planting.
The Neighbourhood Partnership and Friends of St George Park group are also concerned that over a prolonged period of time fishing at the lake has been causing harm to wildlife – mainly through hooks and line being swallowed by birds that visit and breed on the lake. Since 2012, Swan Rescue have been called seventeen times to rescue swans and cygnets that have been injured. On most occasions the injured swan has needed to be removed from the lake and relocated. Other wild birds have also been found by Parks staff killed by fishing line. There have also been reports of antisocial behaviour in the park caused by anglers.
It has proved hard to persuade anglers to fish in certain areas only and to not fish out of close season. With the support of the Partnership a permit scheme was introduced at the beginning of 2014 to try and regulate fishing but has not ultimately prevented harm to wildlife.
The Council has recently undertaken a ‘health check’ on fish in the lake, and concluded “The fish stock is of poor health with evidence of parasites with heavy loads and bacterial infection”.
A further issue is that in one area the side of the lake is collapsing, the lake may therefore need to be drained to carry out repairs.
At its meeting on Wednesday 16 December the members of St George Neighbourhood Partnership received a report from Bristol City Council’s Area Manager for Parks concerning fishing in St George Park. The Partnership members also heard from representatives of the ‘Friends of St George Park’ group. Having considered all the options and being aware of the actions taken over the past few years, the Neighbourhood Partnership voted to support the recommendation from the Council that all fish be removed from the lake.
What is proposed?
– Removing all the fish from St George Park lake and euthanizing them.
– This would be done humanely using an ‘overdose’ of anaesthetic.
– The practicalities are yet to be decided and the Council will liaise with its consultant and the Environment Agency in the coming weeks.
– The action will take place in January/February. However, we may be doing some work to repair the lake perimeter and if this means the lake needs to be drained it may be sensible to combine the two activities.
Are there alternatives?
– An alternative approach was put to the NP and it decided against this and went with officer’s recommendation. The option was to move some specimen fish to Eastville Park lake, retain a small fish stock in St George and euthanize the remainder. However, the problem of injury to wildlife is greater at Eastvile Park and it was not thought sensible to encourage more fishing there by moving specimen fish.
– The consultants that carried out a health check on the fish stock at St George have confirmed that there are high parasite loadings in the fish. This makes it difficult to move the fish to another water as we would essentially be moving the problem elsewhere – introducing a health risk to the host fish stock for example.
– It would be possible to improve the health of the fish but this would require an intermediate or new host site with good water quality where they could be kept, at lower densities for a significant time before being moved again. This is a very unlikely and costly solution that is not recommended by the consultants the Council have used.
– The consultancy carrying out the health check felt that euthanizing was the best approach. However, the Council will welcome and investigate offers to re-home the fish.
Following the removal of the fish the Partnership and Friends group will move forward with their project to introduce plant life to the lake and take other measures to improve its quality and ecology. In the long term it will be possible to introduce a new fish stock to the lake providing this is managed well.