Native fish rescued from dried-out river in Spain

Native fish rescued from dried-out river as drought and soaring heat hit Spain
Workers catch fish to transfer the native species to another location due to the low water level of the River Onyar, Girona, Spain, April 26, 2023, credit: Reuters/Albert Gea

As Spain experiences prolonged drought and abnormally high temperatures linked to climate change, authorities in the northeastern city of Girona have taken action to rescue native fish from the Onyar River. The river’s water levels have significantly decreased due to the ongoing drought, putting the fish at risk.

“I’m 80 years old, and in 80 years, I have never seen it like this (the river). It’s never been as dry as now,” Quim Danis, who lives in Girona, said.

The Girona City Council hired biologists to carry out the rescue operation. They walked through water that was so low it reached only till their ankles and used small electric shocks to stun the fish, making it easier to capture them.

The fish were then placed in plastic bags and transferred to the Ter River, located 10 km (six miles) away, which has higher water levels. Only native fish species were transferred; non-native species were killed.

Biologist Quim Pou said that if they did not rescue the fish, “massive mortality will occur” because of “low water levels and poor water quality in this section of the Onyar river.”

“In the Onyar River, they (native fish) will not survive, and here (Ter River), they will find a way to live,” biologist Guillem Llenas said.

Spain has faced 36 consecutive months of below-average rainfall, with lakes and rivers at an average of 50% of their standard water capacity. However, in the northeastern region of Catalonia and the southern region of Andalusia, levels have fallen to approximately 25%.

Meteorological agency AEMET has stated that this month will likely be the most intense April in Spain since records began.

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