HALF a tonne of fish have been released into the Grand Union Canal at Harefield this afternoon (Thursday) to help boost stocks and the environment.
More than 5,000 roach and bream were set free into the water at Coppermill Lock, near The Coy Carp pub, at 12.30pm by British Waterways.
It marks the launch of a £50,000 scheme to improve a long stretch of the canal which is just part of the 2,200 miles controlled by the organisation.
Some of the fish travelled a long way to reach the canal - coming from small side ponds of the Caen Hill Flight of Locks, on the Kennet and Avon Canal, in Devizes, Wiltshire.
They had outgrown their old home and now have been released on behalf of Thames Water which owns Maple Lodge sewage treatment works. The canal stretch in question is leased from British Waterways by the Blenheim Angling Society.
The £5,000 worth of fish which entered the canal today will be joined by twice that number - £10,000 worth - next year. Meanwhile a further £35,000 will be spent on planting reeds and other waterway bank enhancements under the two-year scheme, which is a joint enterprise with the support of the Environment Agency.
The boost to the local fish habitat in Blenheim Angling Society's stretch of the Grand Union Canal is being funded by money owed to Thames Water by insurance companies for storing firewater from the Buncefield oil depot fire in December 2005 on behalf of the plant's owners.
Leela O'Dea, British Waterways' London ecologist said: "British Waterways is very pleased to be involved in this scheme that will help to revive the waterway's ecology.
"Whilst the new fish stocks being delivered are an impressive sight, the additional works to the waterway banks will enable these fish to thrive.
"By planting reeds and installing soft bank protection, we'll be giving the fish places to lay their eggs safely, as well as dark areas to hide and rest - all of which are essential to a good waterway environment."
Phil Aldous, Environment Manager for Thames Water, said: "We're delighted to be able to use the money owed to us to help boost fish stocks and improve the environment for the angling club, whose membership has dipped recently."
Fred Lancaster, secretary of Blenheim Angling Society, said: "This is a very welcome effort from Thames Water which should lead to a recovery in the fishing on this stretch for the new season."