River Monsters star Jeremy Wade’s fears over Hertfordshire’s deadly invaders

Jeremy Wade with his prized goliath tiger fish in the Congo (Picture: Daniel Huertas and Icon Films)

Jeremy Wade with his prized goliath tiger fish in the Congo (Picture: Daniel Huertas and Icon Films) - Credit: Archant

After travelling the world hunting freshwater beasts, extreme angler Jeremy Wade has spoken of his fears for Hertfordshire waterways from the threat of giant catfish.

Wels catfish (Picture: Environment Agency)

Wels catfish (Picture: Environment Agency) - Credit: Archant

Speaking to the Welwyn Hatfield Times last week ahead of a theatre date in the county, River Monsters TV star and biologist Mr Wade said the monstrous European or Wels catfish – an invasive leviathan which can grow to the size of a man – was “edging out” England’s traditional apex predator, the pike.

River Monsters star Jeremy Wade with a piranha (Picture: Barny Revill and Icon Films)

River Monsters star Jeremy Wade with a piranha (Picture: Barny Revill and Icon Films) - Credit: Archant

He told the Welwyn Hatfield Times: “The European catfish was introduced to Bedfordshire in the 19th century and it spread a little bit in the beginning and has been spreading since then.

“Southern England is ideal for it because it is warm.

“People like catching it, but it does upset the waters and can muscle out pike.”

He added: “I think the British record has been suspended to encourage people not to catch these.”

He caught a huge Wels on his TV show after the species was suspected of attacking two women who were swimming in a lake in its native Germany.

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A statement from the Environment Agency said there were concerns about the impact catfish were having on native species.

It said: “Non-native fish can be fascinating creatures; if you’re an angler, catching one may be your fish of a lifetime, if you’re a fish keeper, they may be the pride of your aquarium.

“Their appealing features range from attractive colouration, such as in the pumpkinseed, to their huge sizes and brute strength, such as in the Wels catfish.

“However, concern is mounting about the increasing presence of these species in our fisheries.

“This is because non-native fish can have undesirable and irreversible impacts on our native fish.

“They may be carrying diseases that our native fish have no resistance against, or breed so successfully they become a pest species.

“Species such as Wels catfish are also predators, so will eat a proportion of the native fish present.”

* Full interview with Jeremy Wade in next week’s Welwyn Hatfield Times.

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