20 October 2013

Fishy Tales from Llanelli: a Modern Mystery

My neighbours` daughter, who lives in Dafen, Llanelli, brought me a fish yesterday that her cat had brought to her house last Friday (18th October). She had shown it to her brother, who has a general interest in natural history and fishing, and he thought that it was a sturgeon. It was clearly a very immature specimen, being just over 9" or so long.

Sturgeon can achieve considerable size, with the largest British ever one taken by rod actually being caught in Carmarthenshire, at Nantgaredig on the R Tywi back in 1933; another was caught in Pembrokeshire waters more recently.
For Glamorgan, Lewis Weston Dillwyn in his always very useful Materials for a Fauna and Flora of Swansea (1848), stated that, ` in some years they are much less frequent than in others`....and....`in March 1836, one was caught in the weir opposite Singleton and weighed about 210 lbs. In June 1808, a large sturgeon was taken close to Loughor, and another has been caught nearer to the mouth, in the same river.`
TW Barker`s very slim Natural History of Carmarthenshire (1905) simply offers the snippet, `a sturgeon makes its way up the Towy [Tywi] at rare intervals, much to the detriment of the nets of the coraclemen`.
The 1933 Nantgaredig individual was 9ft 2" long and weighed 388 pounds, and a famous photograph of this catch shows it strung up and towering over the man who caught it, a Mr Alec Allen. After the latter died in 1972, he arranged for his ashes to be scattered into the Tywi at the very spot where he had caught this Leviathon.
So, is the Dafen find of last Friday really one of this rare fish? It would be nice to think so, with perhaps this unfortunate juvenile making its way up the Afon Dafen (a small, much modified minor river) which is quite close to the finder`s home.
However, an internet search shows that non-native sturgeon are sometimes stocked into fishing lakes with online quotes suggesting, ` some shady angling waters have been buying sturgeon from the pet centres and letting them out`. They apparently can be bought for garden ponds and are non-native Russian species, in particular, `sterlets` Acipenser ruthenus. I don`t know what degree of regulation is applied by the authorities, but also close to where the cat brought in the afore-mentioned individual, is Dafen Pond, a site that is much used for coarse fishing and owned by the local authority. I hope that this is not a repeat of the fiasco that occurred in the Millennium Coastal Park Llanelli, where in arguably unrestrained eagerness to let out ponds to a fishing group, the lease was given to a particular group of fishermen (long since disappeared!), who alledgedly introduced the non-native topmouth gudgeon, which has since required a very expensive eradication programme (paid ultimately by the taxpayer) undertaken by the Environment Agency (now part of NRW). I hope that the latter are nowadays more careful in their monitoring of fishing waters.


Charles Hipkin said...

Nice post Ian, fascinating stuff!

Nigel Ajax-Lewis said...

Everything you say about potential invasive non-natives species is true Ian, but a bigger one was catch off Pembroke Dock in September. See

Barry Stewart said...

Intriguing! have you sent photos/specimen off for identification? I'm no fish expert but the 'snout' seems to fit sturio better than ruthenus from what I can see.

Ian Morgan said...

I have n`t got the specimen - it was quite `pongy`, but I`ve got a few more photos. I`m no fish expert either...can only identify kippers!

Anonymous said...

And the occasional old trout!

Ian Morgan said...

I have been advised that it is one of the introduced species of sturgeon, rather than the native one.
There has been no licence issued for the introduction of this individual fish, which I suspect came from the adjacent Dafen Pond, which is much used by fishermen.