Fearsome vampire fish take over UK rivers with record numbers of the metre-long monsters – Mirror.co.uk

5 months ago Comments Off on Fearsome vampire fish take over UK rivers with record numbers of the metre-long monsters – Mirror.co.uk

Swimmers are on red alert after a rise in the number of a one-metre blood-sucking fish in Britain’s rivers.

The lamprey, which had rows of razor-sharp teeth, is known to attack humans when hungry, and numbers are rocketing around the UK.

Record numbers were recently recorded in the Great Ouse, Trent, Derwent and Wear.

The rise in the “vampire fish” – which kill off other fish by latching onto them and sucking their blood out – has been flagged up on outdoor swimming websites where members swim in rivers and lakes.

The Swimmer’s Daily website carried a report into the rise of the lampreys on May 18, warning swimmers “Return of the lamprey – ancient, ugly and swimming up Britain’s rivers”.

Outdoor swimmers are now “keeping an eye out” for the blood-sucking creatures – which are known to attack humans if they are starving – during dips in rivers.

Olaf Protze/LightRocket via Getty Images
The River Great Ouse, also known as the Fenland.
Record numbers have been reported in the Great Ouse

The numbers of lampreys – which have been around for 360m years and have a permanently open mouth armed with a powerful sucker and rows of razor-sharp teeth – in the UK have shot up in recent years.

Numbers had been dwindling after man-made barriers to alter the flow of the water, called weirs, prevented them from swimming upstream to their breeding grounds, where females lay around 170,000 eggs at a time.

Read more: Three dogs die ‘after drinking water from lake’

Mark Owen, head of freshwater at the Angling Trust, said last week that “fish passes” allow lampreys – and other types of fish like eels, salmon and sea trout – to get through weirs had helped boost numbers.

He said: “The fact they’re coming back indicates the water quality is improving, which is welcome for all fish species.

“There’s a policy now of having fish passes in man-made weirs, like a bypass channel for them to go through.”

Bosses at the Environment Agency confirmed that fish migration had vastly improved over the past four years, with 12,500-miles of England’s river “opened up” so fish like lampreys, eels, salmon and sea trout could get to breeding grounds further up river.

A spokesman revealed on Saturday (May 21) that 200 obstructions had been overcome in various rivers around the UK, with weirs removed and “fish passes installed”, allowing fish to multiply.

The spokesman said: “Almost 200 obstructions have been overcome – this means fish passes installed or weirs removed.

“Migration is important because many species of fish need to migrate to reproduce, feed and complete their life cycles.

“Weir removals and fish passes create ‘fish highways’ making a faster, easier route from the sea right up to the upper reaches of rivers.

Lampreys have been known to attack humans

“This work benefits coarse fish that spend their entire lives in the river, as well as the species that migrate between the river and the sea.”

Sarah Chare, Head of Fisheries at the Environment Agency, said: “After considerable investment, rivers in England are the healthiest for 20 years.

“This is down to more than a decade of hard work to improve the health of England’s rivers.

“But there is more to do and opening up our rivers to help fish migrate is a crucial part of this.”

Lampreys are a protected species in the UK, after once being considered a great delicacy among royalty and the rich.

In 1135 Henry I is reported to have died after eating a “surfeit of lampreys” – although the more likely explanations is that he died from food poisoning.

Fearsome vampire fish take over UK rivers with record numbers of the metre-long monsters – Mirror.co.uk