Alien invader choking River Eye is identified

The invasive non-native species Water Fern is choking the River Eye through Melton EMN-151210-162104001
The invasive non-native species Water Fern is choking the River Eye through Melton EMN-151210-162104001
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The battle is on to stop the spread of an alien invader choking the River Eye through Melton.

Concerned residents have described the river as looking like ‘a swamp’, with its surface being choked by a thick blanket of weed, starving fish of oxygen and harming other aquatic wildlife.

This photo of the River Eye in Melton was tweeted by @dancingness19  on September 28 EMN-151210-160912001

This photo of the River Eye in Melton was tweeted by @dancingness19 on September 28 EMN-151210-160912001

Among those to raise concerns was David Homewood who said: “The river is completely covered in a blanket of duck weed. As residents living alongside the river it looks a mess and it is simply stifling any life on the river.

“We already told the Environment Agency of this last year and they’ve failed to act.”

Mr Homewood added: “From my side, this is an issue created by the agency because they have removed any way of flushing the river since removing the sluice gates at Sysonby lock and replacing them with boulders that do not allow any control of the river flow and simply clog up with litter and waste.”

On Twitter @dancingness19 said: “The river is choked with weeds. Fish will die. It looks terrible.”

Environment Agency biodiversity officer Dan Widdowson, who inspected the river on Friday, told the Melton Times this week: “Thanks to the report from a member of the public we’ve identified the plant as Water Fern (Azolla Filiculoides).

“Water Fern is an invasive non native aquatic species which, until recently, was used in ponds before it was banned from sale in the UK in 2014.”

According to experts Water Fern, which grows all year round - most prolifically in the warm summer months - is capable of rapid vegetative growth, doubling its surface area in seven to 10 days.

Mr Widdowson added: “We’re now assessing options to control this plant in the River Eye and would strongly encourage any water users to check, clean and dry their boots and any other equipment after visiting any water body as this invasive species, along with many others, can easily be transferred to other aquatic sites.”