More than 70 juvenile lamprey, a species of jawless fish, have been moved from one part of the Gala Water to another, safeguarding them during work on the Borders railway.
The relocation to an alternative habitat comes as part of Network Rail’s commitment to protecting local ecology during the line’s construction.
Protection of other local species and the possible movement of lamprey from other riverbed sites is likely to continue as works progress.
Hugh Wark, senior project manager for Network Rail, who is responsible for the railway job, says with lamprey being a protected species in the Gala Water, it is important steps are taken to minimise the effects of construction work. He said: “We take our commitment to the local environment very seriously and we are delighted that a solution was found to protect lamprey from our works. We will continue to work with specialist ecologists to ensure that all wildlife species along the line of the route are protected from the impacts of our works.”
The lamprey were caught using a method called electrofishing, whereby the fish are stunned to make them easier to catch with a net. It is a common practice and, when carried out by professionals, results in no permanent harm to fish.
The process was undertaken by qualified professionals under a licence issued by Marine Scotland.
The adult lamprey – sometimes also called lamprey eels – are characterised by a toothed, funnel-like sucking mouth.
The name ‘lamprey’ derives from the Latin ‘lampetra’, which translates as ‘stone licker’.
Environment specialist for the Borders railway project, Andrew Mitchell, says while lamprey are quite common in certain places, they are particularly protected on the Tweed system.
“This was the first time we’d had to work with lamprey during this project.
“This part of the river is particularly suitable for juvenile lamprey and once we had electrofished them, they were transported to suitable sites upstream and released,” explained Mr Mitchell, who is prohibited from revealing exact locations involved.
As well as aquatic species, work has also been going on involving other species which need protection during work on the rail scheme, including badgers and nesting birds.