THOUSANDS of fish washed out of the Grand Western Canal and into a flooded field following the collapse of a section of bank are about to be returned to their former home thanks to a major fish rescue organised by the Environment Agency.
The sudden collapse of the bank following torrential rain sparked a flood alert in Halberton after it flooded a field on the outskirts of the village. Fish including, pike, bream, roach, tench, perch and eels were washed into a lake that quickly formed around the breach.
On Monday, December 3, a team of agency officers helped by members of the Tiverton Angling Club will set to work rescuing the fish that will die if left in the flooded field. Pumping has reduced the size of the lake, that still measures approximately 150 by 60 metres and is up to 7ft deep in places.
Devon County Council has installed two temporary dams to prevent further loss of water and these will remain in place until the bank repairs have been completed.
The agency will use a boat to net the fish that will then be returned to the canal. Officers have been waiting for the lake to sufficiently reduce in size, through ‘over-pumping’, before going ahead with the rescue.
"This will make it easier to net the fish," said Nick Maye of the Environment Agency.
"We plan to rescue as many as possible and return them safely to the canal.
"There have already been some losses with birds including gulls feeding on a number of dead fish at the waters edge but there are still a lot of fish left in the lake and we are keen to get them out and back in the canal."
The rescue - expected to take up to two days - could be delayed until Tuesday if water levels rise due to further rainfall over the weekend.