RARE fish found swimming in a stretch of canal in Radcliffe shows signs that the River Irwell is ‘fighting back’, according to local anglers.

The barbel, a carp-like freshwater fish, have even been recorded spawning close to The Little Britain Anglers headquarters in the Redvales area of the town.

Last month two separate incidents caused serious pollution on the river after agricultural pesticide had been illegally disposed of.

As a result, numerous invertebrates were wiped out with experts saying, “it would take a long, long time for the river to recover.”

Eric Owen, chairman of Little Britain Anglers said that the sightings are good signs for the river.

He said: “We saw some history on our stretch of the canal and it is very good to see.

“We have managed to film barbel spawning in the River Irwell for the first time.

“It is a big fish that has never been spotted before in this part of the river.

“The fact that they are living in this area is amazing and means that the habitat is fighting back.”

Recent spates of pollution had meant that survival of habitats in the river had been put into jeopardy.

This came after a spokesperson for Mersey Basin Rivers Trust said that the recovery of the River Irwell had been one of the biggest environmental recovery stories of the last 25 years.

Eric Owen said: “Yes, there was lots of pollution in the area but news like this just shows that the river is alive and proves that things are going in the right direction.

“We are not just seeing this species of fish but are seeing lots more wildlife and other fish back in the river.”

Michael Dodman, the work co-ordinator for the club said that it was feared that many fish in the area would go hungry with the sheer number of invertebrates being killed.

“From the first reports of all the invertebrates being killed we were worried about what the fish would eat.

“The fish cannot eat their usual insects and bugs and this affects the whole food chain, causing many animals to starve.”

A spokesperson from the Environment Agency said: “We are continuing to investigate the two pollution incidents on the River Irwell and we would encourage people to report any such incidents to our 24hr Incident Hotline on 0800 80 70 60.

Michael Dudman added that the Little Britain Anglers are always looking for volunteers to help with the good work that they do.

He said: “We always say that we are not just about the fishing as we are just trying to make the canal more inviting to the public so that it is used more. We encourage bikers, ramblers, bird spotters, photographers, anybody. It’s your canal, use it!”

People can join the club by visiting Elton Tackle Shop in Stand Lane, Radcliffe, e-mail info@littlebritainanglers.co.uk or visit Little Britain Anglers Facebook group.

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