Friday, 4 September 2015

Older than the dinosaurs: Lamprey fish return to UK rivers after 200 years

Ancient eel-like fish is reclaiming its former river strongholds as water quailty improves
Lewis Smith

Friday 4 September 2015 07.01 BSTLast modified on Friday 4 September 201507.03 BST

An ancient fish blamed for the death of a king and served as a traditional royal dish is returning to parts of Britain where it has been absent for 200 years.

Lampreys, a Medieval delicacy and eaten in a scene of Games of Thrones, evolved almost 200m years before the dinosaurs but industrial pollution drove them out of many of Britain’s rivers.

They are now returning to the upper reaches of rivers that were once considered their heartlands but from which they vanished up to 200 years ago amid declining water quality and man-made blockages that prevented them migrating upstream and downstream.

Among the rivers the fish, described as “living fossils”, are reclaiming are the Ouse, Trent and Derwent.

Simon Toms, a fisheries expert at the Environment Agency, said: “For the last 200 years, some rivers have not been capable of supporting lamprey species as a result of water quality, poor habitat and manmade barriers.

“Now that water quality has improved and some of these barriers have been removed we are seeing lampreys return to the upper reaches of rivers such as the Ouse, Trent, and Derwent, where they were absent as recently as 30 years ago.”

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