Which fish have returned to the River Schelde?

The Institute for Nature and Forestry Research, the INBO, says that for 15 years now there has been an awful lot of life in the River Schelde (Scheldt).

Scientists working for the INBO placed two basket traps in the waters of the Schelde at Sint-Anneke in Antwerp.  After 24 hours the traps were emptied to discover what had been caught.

“In contrast to what people think there’s an awful lot of life in the River Schelde” says researcher Frank Van de Meutter.  “We wanted to learn what exactly this life is.  People know the birds on the surface but have little knowledge about what is in the water unless it’s been on their plate”.

The Schelde boasts shrimps and many types of fish we are used to eating but the researchers warn eating fish from the Schelde is perhaps not the best idea. “For many years the river collected a lot of rubbish from people but also from industry.   A lot of this refuse has collected in the silt where animals live.  It ends up in their bodies and would end up in ours if we eat them” says Frank.

“There are lots of eels, but this is a fatty fish that collects a lot of toxic substances.  They spend most of their time in the mud.  There are large numbers of grey shrimps, but they are often eaten by other animals”.    

“There is sea bass, pikeperch and fish of the herring family including rock herring and twaite shad that breed here”.

Chinese mitten crabs also occur.  It’s an exotic Asian species the scientists would have preferred not to see.

“They eat everything and are spreading to the tributaries of the Schelde.  The water quality in these tributaries is good.  There’s an awful lot of plant life but the crabs eat it all.  As a result these waterways are far less valuable for other species”.

Thankfully water quality has improved a lot.

“In the Seventies and Eighties these were nearly open sewers.  A lot of progress has been made but now we are stuck and failing to make headway to top quality” says Frank.  “An awful lot of life has returned.  You will find shrimps as far as Ghent.  It is giving great hope”.

Top stories