VEGA News Item

Restocking Britain's Waterways with Funny Fish - 06/05/2008
Tricks to Increase Anglers’ Catches
1. Britain’s rivers and lakes are to be restocked with trout carrying genetic modifications that make them easier to catch. The move has been ordered by the Environment Agency, which wants to prevent interbreeding between native brown trout and those introduced for anglers. However, its research has shown that the genetic modifications, which are designed to render the fish infertile, also make them easier to hook.

2. “It is an unexpected bonus: it means that anglers catch more and so get more sport out of them.” said Dr Dafydd Evans, the Agency’s Head of Fisheries. (Sunday Times, 4 May 2008). The study was prompted by concerns about the ecological impact of the annual restocking of lakes and rivers with 900,000 farm-reared brown trout. They are needed because the low numbers of native fish mean that Britain’s more than two million anglers would otherwise stand little chance of catching anything. However, farm-reared fish can interbreed with wild stock and so pass on undesirable genes.

3. Dr Evans explains: “We knew one answer could be to release so-called triploid fish, which have been altered to have an extra set of chromosomes. This makes them infertile so they cannot interbreed with native fish.” He asked the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust to examine the impact of releasing such fish into rivers. Dylan Roberts, the Trust’s Head of Fisheries, said: “Releasing farmed fish is a bit like letting battery chickens into the jungle. They are bred for eating and have lost many of the genes vital for survival. We don’t want them giving those genes to native populations.”

4. In a comparison of genetically modified fish and normal fish, Dylan Roberts asked anglers about their respective catches. He said that dozens more of the genetically modified fish were landed, possibly because “they had no interest in sex and just kept eating.”

5. We must warn animal welfarists that assurances during the anti-hunting controversies and subsequent parliamentary Act over the exemption of other countryside “sports” and pursuits from further objections and legislation were a ruse to silence lobbies representing anglers, game-keeping, and shoots while politicians grappled with all the intricacies of fox- and stag-hunting. We worry that the anti-hunting Act is not secure and that complacency over angling and other country sports must be banished and replaced by well-founded research and objection needing more than a general distaste, albeit lucratively serviced, for some disgusting activities that translate local food production into evil trophies from malign entertainment.  

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