TWO pals who were shocked at a river stock survey revealing plummeting levels of their favourite fish are seeing the results of their efforts to save it paying off.

Trevor Harrop, 56, from Ringwood and Budgie Price, 52, from Alderholt, used to be just fishing friends, who would meet at the Avon for some leisure time.

But in 2005 they were disturbed to hear the numbers of the Avon roach were dwindling due to modern farming practices, increased predator numbers and a host of other factors.

Two years later their Avon Roach project was born, with the pair developing special spawning boards in a bid to trick Mother Nature.

The spawn created on those boards were taken to boxes installed at Mr Harrop’s home, where they were hatched and grown to a year old before being put into ponds in Bickton to grow into adults.

With a controlled environment and no predators the fish were grown to three years old and sexual maturity before being released back into the Avon.

Next Thursday this year’s crop of thousands of roach will be released at Fordingbridge Recreation Ground.

The event is to be filmed by wildlife film maker and project supporter Hugh Miles.

Mr Harrop said: “We must have released tens of thousands of roach, “The river used to be full of them, then for all sorts of reasons they suffered a terrible decline over decades.

“Our project has captured the hearts of many folk and there are now lots of replica projects, in the Bristol Avon, the Severn and all over. It’s hit the spot.

“We were just a couple of nutcases with a bonkers idea, but now we’re fully supported by the Environment Agency, who are absolutely brilliant with us, so, so generous. We never imagined anything on this industrial scale, we just thought we’d try and it’s taken over our lives.

“The roach is a gentle, lovely, inoffensive little species - my favourite, and one of the most beautiful fish to look at. Everybody loves roach.”

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