Sixth and final article: Rescuing fish at Todbrook Reservoir

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Canal & River Trust

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Since August this year, Canal & River Trust has been getting underway with the long task of repairing the dam wall at Toddbrook Reservoir.
We’re bringing you the latest updates from our dedicated project manager, as well as an insight into the vital fish rescue operation.

We have appointed experienced project manager, Rob Jowitt, to lead a team of experts to work out what happened at Toddbrook. Working alongside Rob, contractor Kier is on site to maintain and manage water levels, deliver the repair works to the dam and keep the reservoir secure. Additionally, independent experts will be carrying out the inquiry into what caused the damage to the dam spillway.

Canal & River Trust
Canal & River Trust

Rob Jowitt commented: “Moving on from the emergency response, our job is to find out what caused the damage and prepare a detailed plan for repairing the dam wall. It is a huge job which is likely to take some time.”

The water level in the reservoir was lowered by over ten metres following the discovery of damage to the dam wall this summer. Soon after this operation, when the reservoir was made safe and residents of Whaley Bridge returned home, the Trust carried out a major fish rescue to re-home thousands of fish which had been affected by the draining of the reservoir.

Canal & River Trust
Canal & River Trust

Coarse fish, such as bream, roach, perch, tench and pike were captured in large nets by our fish specialists and transported mostly to Upper Bittell Reservoir, near Birmingham. Upper Bittell reservoir has low fish stocks after it was drained and refilled following maintenance works two years ago. Therefore it can accommodate this large amount of fish without upsetting the local ecosystem.

On the advice of our fisheries and angling team, the remaining fish at Toddbrook will be removed and rehomed this autumn when the weather is cooler. This is much better for the health of the fish and increases their survival rate. Until then a small amount of water has been left in the centre of the reservoir to keep the local fish stock alive.

With an estimated 30,000 fish (about 5,000kg) to rehome, this task will take around three weeks.

More about fish recues

It is an offence under the Animal Welfare Act to cause fish any unnecessary suffering and harm. An environmentally responsible organisation like the Trust is obliged to make best endeavors to avoid killing fish. Therefore, fish rescues play an important part of our overall fisheries management programme.

Canal & River Trust
Canal & River Trust

Fish are an integral part of the wildlife of the nation’s canals and rivers. For example, when people talk of the need to encourage kingfishers or otters, what they really referring to is the need to ensure thriving fish stock populations which can then support a sustainable level of predation.

Like most other living things, fish need a supply of oxygen to breath. Left in shallow water this oxygen supply can quickly run out, especially if the temperature is high. Leaving fish in situ in shallow water also makes them easy prey for their natural predators such as herons, kingfishers and cormorants.

Replacing fish does not come cheaply, if the Trust had to replace all its fish we would be looking at writing out a cheque for the sum of around £40 million.

Healthy fish stocks are important to anglers too. The health and wellbeing benefits of angling are well known, but without sufficient healthy fish stocks these benefits cannot be unlocked. During 2019 the Trust has introduced more than 7,000 new people, the majority of them young people, to angling through the Let’s Fish! campaign. 95% of these participants have caught at least one fish in their first 30 minute fishing session.

Could you be part of the Canal & River Trust team, working to transform canals and rivers into spaces where local people (and local wildlife) enjoy spending time? We have professional roles, seasonal roles and volunteer roles available right now. To find out more go to or receive all our latest news, offers and more by signing up to our newsletter.

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Posted On: 30/10/2019

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