Environment Agency in Christmas stocking
Hundreds of fish have been released into the River Thames in an effort to halt a plunge in population levels.
Every fish is marked with an orange dot beside the eye, so anglers will know when they catch one. They are being asked to report back to the Agency so they can keep an eye on stocks.
The 18 month-old fish, which are up to 25cm long, were released at three locations: Buscot, Newbridge, and Rushey Lock.
Barbel are native to this part of the Thames, but the population has declined in the last 15-20 years. This is the second of three annual stockings designed to re-establish the species.
Chris Bell, Fisheries Officer for the Environment Agency, said that now the barbel were in the river, the agency would work to establish and maintain habitats for them.
"They need clean gravel beds in shallow water to spawn," he said.
Over the next year the Environment Agency will introduce four to five-tonne parcels of gravel at a handful of selected locations.
Mr Bell said the main cause of the decline had been land drainage projects along the riverside, often to reclaim land for agricultural use.
The Agency has contacted the Upper Thames Fishing Consultancy in order to spread word of the new stocking around local angling clubs.
Work is also planned to dig channels around the weirs and locks along this part of the river so that the fish can move freely up- and down-stream.
Barbel are notoriously fragile fish. "You can kill a barbel just by hooking it," said Pete Turner of Turner's Tackle and Bait in Faringdon, half way along the restocked stretch.
The Agency hopes the groups will intebreed and re-establish themselves.
"We're kind of like a fish dating agency," said Mr Bell.
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