Page last updated at 10:39 GMT, Wednesday, 16 April 2008 11:39 UK

River Tweed put on parasite alert

Salmon in the River Tweed
People have been asked to play their part in protecting the river

River Tweed users have been urged to play a part in keeping away a parasite which could force the killing of all the fish in the river system.

The Scottish Government has outlined radical plans to deal with the Gyrodactylus salaris.

Nick Yonge of the Tweed Foundation appealed to anyone travelling abroad to take extra precautions on their return.

He said it was vital to dry out any equipment which had been used in fresh water while overseas.

Mr Yonge claimed there was no alternative to the complete cull plans detailed by the government to stop the parasite which has already devastated salmon stocks in Norwegian rivers.

"It can hook a ride on other species of fish - it doesn't affect them, it doesn't kill them or give them the disease," he said.

What we have to be intent on is never letting it get here in the first place
Nick Yonge
River Tweed Foundation

"If you are trying to get rid of it in a river system what you have to do is kill all the fish in the river system.

"It is the only way of getting rid of them."

He said that meant everyone using the River Tweed in southern Scotland and the north of England had to be on their guard.

"Of course we don't ever want that to happen on the Tweed," he said.

"What we have to be intent on is never letting it get here in the first place."

He said it was important that equipment used abroad such as canoes, fishing rods or reels was thoroughly dried before being used on the Tweed.

The Scottish Government's plan would only be used if an outbreak could not be contained.

A special poison would be released to kill the parasites and their hosts.

It is hoped parasite-free fish would then repopulate affected rivers.

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