Britain's rarest freshwater fish is staging a revival in the Lake District after decades of decline.
As recently as 2008 the vendace, a delicate fish known as a fresh-water herring, was on the brink of extinction in England.
However last month conservationists in the Lake District discovered what they believe is a breeding population of the rare fish in Bassenthwaite Lake, where it was declared “locally extinct” only six years ago.
The vendace is drawn to deep-water lakes, where it can shelter from warmer temperatures and feed on tiny freshwater zooplankton. It was only ever found at four sites: Bassenthwaite Lake and Derwent Water in the Lake District, and the Castle and Mill Lochs in Lochmaben.
However the fish, which dates back to the Ice Age, died out in Scotland several decades ago and Derwent Water remained its only refuge in England, after the last fish was recorded in Bassenthwaite Lake in 2001.
Dr Ian Winfield, from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology in Lancaster, led the recent survey which rediscovered the fish at Bassenthwaite Lake.
He told The Independent: “This is about as big as it gets for rare fish in Britain. It is our rarest freshwater species and it’s a great joy to see that, as part of the clean-up of Bassenthwaite Lake, the population is starting to go in the right direction.”
The rarest animals in the world
The rarest animals in the world
1/23 Goblin shark
Dubbed the "alien of the deep", the goblin shark was caught by a commercial fisherman off the coast of Eden, New South Wales. The carcass of the terrifying looking creature was then donated to the Australian Museum in Sydney so that it could be dissected
2/23 Glass frog
Scientists in South America have discovered a brand new species of frog – and he’s a dead ringer for Kermit the frog. Hyalinobatrachium dianae is an inch-long glass frog with identical bright green skin, a translucent belly, and bulging white eyes with black pupils. The new species found by Costa Rican Amphibian Research Center on the Talamanca hills of the country, was named after the senior researcher’s mother Diane and brought the total known species of glass frogs on the island to 14
BBC via YouTube
3/23 Walking fish (climbing perch)
A bizarre and seemingly super-powered fish which can walk out of water and breathe on land for up to six days could spell a 'major disaster' for wildlife, scientists have warned. The aggressive climbing perch, which has lungs as well as gills, has been discovered in northern Australia
4/23 Frilled shark
A rare and terrifying frilled shark has been pulled from the water by fishermen near Lakes Entrance in Victoria, Australia. Also known as the "living fossil", the frilled shark is named for its six pairs of frill-like gills. The shark’s origin dates back 80 million years, and is one of two species that is still alive from this period
5/23 Black Sea Devil anglerfish
Researchers in the US have released what they believe to be the first video footage showing a bizarre-looking Black Sea Devil anglerfish in the wild. As anglerfish live in the deep sea, they are very rarely seen in their natural habitat, and fewer than half a dozen have ever been captured on film or video in the wild, according to experts at the Monterrey Bay Acquarium Research Institute (MBARI)
Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
6/23 Blue lobster
A rare blue lobster was caught off Pine Point in Scarborough, Maine. The crustacean is being donated to the Maine State Aquarium
AP Photo/Meghan LaPlante
7/23 Two-headed dolphin
A con-joined dolphin found on the beach of the Aegean Sea coastal town of Dikili, Izmir province of Turkey
8/23 Conjoined whales
A pair of conjoined gray whale calves have been found off the coast of Mexico, in what scientists believe could be the first discovery of its kind
9/23 Fish-eating spider (Dolomedes facetus)
Dolomedes facetus captured pond fish (genus Xiphophorus) in a garden pond near Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. The number of spiders who catch and eat fish is on the rise across the world, scientists believe
Peter Liley, Moffat Beach, Queensland
10/23 Dancing frogs
A frog couple from one of the 14 new species of so-called dancing frogs
AP/Satyabhama Das Biju
Conservationists in New Zealand are celebrating after an extremely rare kakapo chick hatched from a cracked egg held together by nothing more than tape and glue. The bird joins a global kakapo population of just 125 birds
Creative Commons. Photo: jidanchaomian, via Flickr.
12/23 Migaloo the white whale
Migaloo the white whale, sighted at the Bernard Islands
Twitter/Migaloo the Whale
13/23 Domed land snail
Living in complete darkness more than 900 metres below the surface has left this tiny snail with no pigmentation in its shell. Discovered in the caves of western Croatia the Zospeum tholussum is also a slow mover, creeping just a few centimeters each week.
14/23 Leaf-tailed gecko
The mottled colouring on this gecko helps it blend in with the rain forests and rocky habitats of eastern Australia. It also has an extremely wide tail (from which it gets its name) to further confuse predators
15/23 Flying frog
A Giant green flying frog which is among the new species found by scientists in the Greater Mekong region
16/23 Megamouth shark
An extremely rare female deep-water megamouth shark has been caught off the coast of Shizuoka, Japan, and is believed to be only the 58 sighting of the animal on record
17/23 A Maui's dolphin
Fears grow for Maui's dolphins after New Zealand government opens west coast block for oil and gas drilling
A rare goat-sheep hybrid has been born on an Irish farm, much to the surprise of a farmer who said the ‘geep’ is thriving since its birth
Irish Farmers Journal
19/23 Omani owl
An Omani Owl, a species completely new to science
20/23 Albino dolphin
A rare albino calf being herded into Japan's notorious Taiji 'killing' Cove, where hundreds of dolphins are slaughtered during its annual hunt
21/23 Stone curlew
The stone curlew is one of the UK's most threatened birds and has recently returned from their wintering grounds in Africa and Spain
22/23 Mascarene Petrel
A unique photograph has been taken of a bird with a visible egg showing after experts sent to study a critically endangered Mascarene Petrel on a remote Indian Ocean tropical island encountered an undeniably pregnant member of the species
23/23 Albino cobra
A "very dangerous and venomous" albino cobra has been found in a suburban Los Angeles neighbourhood after escaping from a home there
Dept. of Animal Care and Control, County of Los Angeles
Last month Dr Winfield’s team found two adult vendace in the lake during an annual survey, with further echo-sounding tests suggesting a much larger number of fish in the 23m-deep body of water.
Dr Winfield added: “If we’d only seen these two fish, we’d be suspicious whether they were actually breeding locally or came from elsewhere, but the echo-sounding suggests a larger population which is breeding locally. The next few years are likely to be really exciting because usually things in nature don’t happen at this kind of speed.”
The fish is exciting conservations because the effects of the last Ice Age left Britain with “relatively few” species of freshwater fish compared to the rest of Europe. Scientists also hope that a viable population of the cold-loving fish in England will allow them to track the effects of climate change.
It is thought that the combination of increased sediment levels, resulting from over-grazing and poor land management, and fertilizer run-off have contributed to its decline.
However according to Dr Winfield “a lot has been done” at Bassenthwaite Lake in recent years to improve water quality and “nature has actually jumped ahead of a plan to reintroduce vendace from a refugee population set up in Scotland in 1997”.
One theory is that the species may have returned by moving down the River Derwent from the small surviving population in Derwent Water. However DNA analysis has yet to confirm this.
Jo Harrison from United Utilities water company, which is partly responsible for the lake, said the company has “spent millions of pounds” on projects to “improve sewage treatment” and “help stop storm water spills”.
According to Dr Winfield these projects have helped reduce the amount of potentially harmful phosphate in the water, making it more attractive for vendace to breed and flourish.Reuse content