“THIS is not red tape, this is caring for the environment.”

These were the words of an Environment Agency spokesperson, in response to questions about the length of time taken to help the dying carp at Sandown Canoe Lake.

Local residents and volunteers who had fought for days to help the carp, as the water ebbed away in the heat, had hit out at the owners of the lake – a mixture of private landowners and the Isle of Wight Council – for a delay in dealing with the problem, which was first brought to attention last weekend.

The County Press asked the council and the EA what the hold up had been, what the situation was for the fish, and what the future held for the lake.

The EA spokesperson said: “We fully understand the concerns of the public, but it is against the law to move fish without permission from the Environment Agency. We must protect fish stocks and the water from harmful parasites and disease.”

He explained that they have to be sure any attempt to move the fish would not make their situation worse.

He added: “Our officers continue to give advice and guidance to the owners on how to improve conditions on the lake.

“We have now allowed some the fish to be moved. This is not red tape. This is caring for the environment.”

The EA said it was the owner’s duty to manage the lake, with advice from them as necessary.

Isle of Wight County Press:

Picture of the private lake where the carp have been moved to. Courtesy of Save Our Fish Facebook page.

An Isle of Wight Council spokesperson said: “The council informed the EA regarding concerns about the boating lake and the fish on Saturday, August 8.

"The EA attended on Monday and carried out immediate tests. At that time there was no sign of dead fish.

“Over the weekend, council officers worked to prevent the unconsented and illegal movement of the fish into the River Yar that had been suggested.

"It was important that any movement of the fish was properly managed to mitigate any risks of the fish carrying parasites and infections into any new location.

"If the movement of the fish had happened, a fine up to £50,000 could have been imposed on those involved.

“The lake has progressively moved to a freshwater habitat following damage to the link to the sea (it previously being brackish). "Anecdotal evidence is that as much as five years ago carp were first spotted in the lake although we can only speculate on how they got there.

“The lake now only receives rainwater, and the exceptional dry hot weather led to a drop in the water level. EA did not want tap water introduced into the lake.

“Throughout the week the council has liaised with the EA, along with representatives from Sandown Town Council and Southern Water.

“The EA using the sandbags from the Isle of Wight Council and working with the community group set up a holding tank within the lake.

"We are aware that some fish are now with the RSPCA but many others have been moved to a private pond, with the consent of the EA.

“The reduced water levels have exposed issues with the lake, with what appears to be bare mud with little, if any aquatic vegetation, which may have been stripped out by the fish.

“The Isle of Wight Council will continue to monitor the lake and work closely with other agencies and the predominant landowner to create a management plan for the future, that could allow it to return to its original state as a boating lake.

"We hope with the recent and predicted rainfall that the lake will start to refill after this dry spell."

Since 2017, the local authority has been speaking to bidders keen to take on the successful Dinosaur Isle attraction.

The Isle of Wight Council has asked potential bidders interested in Dinosaur Isle to consider Culver Parade as a whole, which could include the lake.

The spokesperson said today: “There are a number of options regarding the lake, Dinosaur Isle and the immediate areas.

"Discussions have currently stalled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with no date yet set for them to recommence.”

The efforts to save the fish were led by Matthew Sherwood, with help from a team of local volunteers, Blue Seas Protection, RSPCA and a private landowner in Godshill who rehomed most of the fish.