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Extinct fish found in the Upper Schelde!

The discovery of a shad in a marina on the River Schelde (Scheldt) has caused great excitement among conservationists. The fish was thought to be extinct in Flanders, but the discovery of a dead specimen in Avelgem (West Flanders) shows that there has been a great improvement in the quality of the water of the River Schelde.

In recent days pollution wreaked havoc on fish stocks in the upper reaches of the Schelde.  In France and Wallonia most of the fish died after sugar beet pulp ended up in the river and oxygen levels plummeted.  In Flanders too some fish have died and have been hauled out of the waterway.

The shad found in Avelgem is one such specimen, but the fact that this fish was found at all is pretty remarkable.  The shad is a herring like fish that swims upstream like the Atlantic salmon and the European eel.  It lives in the sea, but in order to spawn it swims upriver in search of fresh water only to return to the sea afterwards.

No shad has even been caught so far upriver: 200 km from the sea and past four weirs in the Upper Schelde.  Biologist David Buysse of the Institute for Nature and Forestry Research: “We’ve now found one specimen.  It measured nearly 60 cm.  It was a female with a stomach full of eggs.  That makes it a great tragedy.  The fish was ready to procreate, but wasn’t able to do so.  Its presence shows the improvement in the quality of the River Schelde.  The shad can only service if there is a lot of oxygen in the water.”

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