Bream wars in the Norfolk Broads


Ben O’Rourke

“The whole project about Hoveton Great Broad is about restoring clear water, using things like biomanipulation,” says Duncan Holmes, who has lived on the Norfolk Broads all his life. “There’s some debate about whether this is actually a clear water habitat in the first instance. Where the issue comes from is taking a fish out of its natural environment.”

Holmes is one of the directors of the Broads Angling Services Group, which objected when it first heard about Natural England’s plan to ‘restore’ Hoveton. The broad – a flooded ancient peat mine – is owned by Tom Blofeld and rented out to Natural England. The National Lottery is funding part of it.

Natural England argues the bream eat daphnia, which eat the algae that discolour the water, so all fish need to be removed from Hoveton, which BASG says is a major breeding ground for bream. It plans to build a £250,000 barrier to stop the fish entering the broad.

After BASG raised its concerns with the Environment Agency, it asked Holmes and the others to do present research into the matter. The group and local anglers spent the next seven years building a water-tight case not to exclude bream from Hoveton.

“[We were] a voluntary workforce [providing] free manpower, free boats, free levels of information, data, to them to help their fisheries team to manage the broads. And this is why this whole project is so unfortunate because the Environment Agency have decided to disregard not only the information and the time the anglers have given too them, but also the work of their own fisheries team. It’s going to really damage the relationship between the Environmental Agency and guys that are out on the water every day for nine months of the year.”

Holmes points out bream are not the only reason for discoloured water. Boats that travel up and down the waterways every day can stir up silt. There are also nutrient discharges from farmland and other sources.

“This project doesn’t involve restricting the boats, it doesn’t stop high nutrient discharges into the broads,” he say. “So without doing all three actions together, it won’t be as effective as it looks like it’s going to be on paper.”

Holmes adds that a scheme in the early 2000s on another broad in the area using booms was successful. The results of that have also been ignored. BASG has asked why it has been overlooked but not received a straight answer.

Click here for a parliamentary petition to stop Natural England from excluding bream from Hoveton. 

And click here to find out more about BASG.

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