Newton Valence January 2022

Working closely with the client to undertake a fish rescue; removing non-native goldfish (Carassius auratus) from the Newton Valence village pond, to assist recovery of the local common toad (Bufo bufo) population and enhance wider biodiversity at the site.

FiveRivers successfully completed the Newton Valence Pond fish removal in January 2022, capturing and removing a total of 1,587 goldfish. The FiveRivers field team received excellent feedback from the client.

Project requirements

The problem

Although widespread throughout mainland Britain, common toad are listed as a Species of Principal Importance under Section 41 of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities (NERC) Act (2006) due to recent population declines. Newton Valence is home to a toad migration route taken by over a thousand of these amphibians every year. In spring, the local toad population congregates at the village pond to breed, with females laying strings of toad spawn. Unfortunately, significant populations of non-native goldfish can dominate a waterbody such as a pond or small lake, impacting both aquatic habitat and water quality as they feed from the pond bed. During this process they uproot aquatic plants and stir up fine sediment, releasing nutrients and triggering a reduction in dissolved oxygen content, impacting conditions for other species, including juvenile lifestages of amphibians like the common toad.

As a small community conservation group, the Newton Valence Toad Patrol required FiveRivers to deliver a cost-effective and rigorous fish removal in a manner sensitive to wider aquatic ecology present within the pond.

Our approach

The solution

FiveRivers worked closely with Newton Valence Toad Patrol (with grant funding from the South Downs National Park Sustainable Communities Fund; a County Councillor Grant and an EHDC Councillor Grant) to ensure that all fish removal consents were sought and obtained in a timely manner; and to identify a suitable works programme and fish removal methodology. The removal was programmed to avoid sensitive periods for amphibians.

With a dedicated Project Manager and a field team of specialist aquatic ecologists, FiveRivers were able to efficiently remove the majority of goldfish from the pond, and expertly answer questions posed by passing members of the local community. Survey methodology involved a combination of seine netting and backpack electric fishing, with the pond sub-divided into smaller sections to aid capture efficiency.

Detailed data was captured on site to ensure the production of a thorough project summary report, including an overview of the number, size range (mm) and total weight (kg) of fish removed; a site description; water quality measurements; and a record of additional notable species.

Project outcomes

The results

FiveRivers successfully delivered the Newton Valence pond fish removal to programme and on budget, with excellent feedback from the Newton Valence Toad Patrol.

A total of 1,587 goldfish (total weight: 9.56 kg) were removed with potentially significant benefits in terms of native aquatic wildlife, habitat and water quality in the pond.

Additional species confirmed on site and returned unharmed included common rudd (Scardinius erythrophythalmus), smooth newt (Lissotriton vulgaris) and common frog (Rana temporaria). Interestingly, smooth newt were found in the pond, unusual for January (no-one told them they’re meant to be tucked up asleep under a log hibernating!)

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FiveRivers team were confronted with a difficult and sensitive job and exceeded all our expectations. They performed their challenging tasks with professionalism and good humour and taught us so much in the process about the consequences of non-native fish invading our waters. This information will stand us in good stead to educate others with real life examples. No one could have imagined that goldfish could proliferate so quickly and cause such devastation. Now we have the impetus and the evidence needed to drive forward our restoration project. We are also now much better informed and motivated to enhance and protect all the wildlife populations which need clean water and oxygen to thrive. There are other dried up ponds in the area, which could be providing vital wildlife habitat. We very much hope we can work with FiveRivers in future to restore these ponds as well.”
Victoria Ewart, Newton Valence Toad Patrol

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Tom Grayling

Director of Monitoring & New Business

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