Environment Agency reviews the genetic impact of trout stocking

The regulation of trout stocking in rivers in England and Wales is under review by the Environment Agency, following an extensive study of more than 300 scientific papers looking at the potential genetic impact of stocking on wild brown trout populations.

Although wild trout populations are still genetically diverse, there are concerns fertile brown trout raised in fish farms pose a significant threat to the future survival of wild brown trout populations if the two successfully interbreed.

“Stocking trout has been a widely practised and legitimate fishery management tool for more than 100 years. An estimated one million farm-reared fertile brown trout are released into rivers in England and Wales every year to satisfy the demands of game anglers,” explained Environment Agency Fisheries Scientist Brian Shields.

“We need to be sure we get the right balance between protecting native wild brown trout and continuing to stock rivers to meet the needs of anglers and fisheries owners. The review of the scientific evidence helps us to do this and informs our on-going consultation on how we stock trout in the future. But we also need to know what anglers, fisheries owners and fish farmers think.

“Most farmed fish have been subject to long term domestication and are bred for an attractive appearance and rapid growth rates, but are not necessarily well suited to survival in the wild. If farm-reared brown trout breed with wild stocks, they may reduce the future viability of the population as a whole as they may not pass on the attributes of predator avoidance, survival and reproduction that comes with the natural selection process.”

Before deciding on whether there needs to be a change to the existing trout stocking regulations, the Environment Agency is seeking the views of anglers, fisheries owners and fish farmers through a national consultation which is running until the 30th November.

The research was carried out on behalf of the Environment Agency by Professor Andy Ferguson, of Queen’s University, Belfast, and was commissioned following a review of fisheries legislation and the publication of the National Trout and Grayling Fisheries Strategy inn 2003.

Details of the trout stocking review and research can be found on the Environment Agency’s web site at www.environment-agency.gov.uk. For further information e-mail: trout.stocking.review@environment-agency.gov.uk, or write Dr. Brian Shields, Trout Stocking Review, Environment Agency, Richard Fairclough House, Knutsford Road, Latchford, Warrington, Cheshire WA4 1HT. Alternatively, telephone 08708 506506 and ask for an information pack.