‘Very rare’ venomous deepwater fish found near popular Merseyside beach

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‘I believe it is the first bluemouth rockfish to come out of the Mersey’

A “very rare” venomous deepwater fish has been found near a popular Merseyside beach.

Steven Mayes was fishing off the Wirral coast near New Brighton when he found what he believes is a bluemouth rockfish, a small predatory fish often seen between 150 and 400 metres under the sea and sometimes as deep as 1,000m.

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Though the rockfish is common in deeper water, experts said it was unusual to see it so close to shore. In fact, according to British Sea Fishing, there is no record of the bluemouth rockfish being caught from the shore in the UK.

After he caught the fish, at around 4:30pm on May 6, Mr Mayes said he walked out into the water as far as he could go to release it but it kept swimming back in.

He added: “I am hoping it made it and is still swimming around our Mersey but we’ll never know. I couldn’t wait to tell the lads and post it on our local sea fishing groups to see if I could get a proper ID.

“I believe it is the first bluemouth rockfish to come out of the Mersey and maybe the Northwest. Gutted it wasn’t over a pound in weight though as my name would be in the record books.”

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Mark Taylor, from North Western IFCA, said the fish was “very rare for this area” though are common elsewhere, adding a lot of fish species move closer to the shore during the summer, sometimes to breed, and this may be why it was found in New Brighton.

Steven Mayes with the Bluemouth Rockfish. Credit: Steven MayesSteven Mayes with the Bluemouth Rockfish. Credit: Steven Mayes
Steven Mayes with the Bluemouth Rockfish. Credit: Steven Mayes | Steven Mayes

River Mersey Estuary: The River Mersey Estuary was dubbed biologically dead fourty years ago, however, finds such as Steven’s suggest that wildlife could be recovering from industrial pollution and sewage.

The fish is the latest find in the Estuary after anglers found smooth-hound sharks, bull huss sharks and starry smooth-hound sharks between Howley Weir in Warrington and Perch Rock, Wirral, earlier this year.

The sharks were among 37 fish species recorded by the Mersey Rivers Trust, more than double the amount since the last survey in 2002 - when only 15 species were recorded in the estuary.

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However, anglers say while things have improved, the amount of sewage pumped into the estuary from sewers managed by United Utilities is putting this comeback at risk often catching sanitary towels and wet wipes along with fish in the river.

People enjoy the warm weather and sunshine on New Brighton beach and promenade with the Liverpool skyline behind. Image: Christopher Furlong/Getty ImagesPeople enjoy the warm weather and sunshine on New Brighton beach and promenade with the Liverpool skyline behind. Image: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
People enjoy the warm weather and sunshine on New Brighton beach and promenade with the Liverpool skyline behind. Image: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images | Getty Images

UK’s polluted beaches: According to the Top of the Poops website, United Utilities was the worst polluter of beaches out of any other company and New Brighton is the most polluted bathing area in England and Wales.

Over 2022, sewage was released roughly three times a day for 7056 hours or 294 days by United Utilities. However, Environment Agency data taken during the summer did class water quality as excellent.

On May 18, Water UK which represents the water companies apologised for the level of sewage being pumped into rivers across the UK and pledged to reduce spills by up to 35% by 2030.

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One of the reasons why there might be higher sewage discharges in the North West is because 54% are combined sewers. This means that rain mixes with sewage in the system so when there’s large rainfall, the system risks overflowing and has to be released.

Newer developments are built with separate systems but in older urban areas, the old Victorian sewerage system remains. In order to mitigate this, United Utilities said they are bringing in £900m of investment before 2025 including £36m on the Wirral.

This involves building storage tanks to create additional capacity during times of heavy rainfall acting as “holding areas” for rainwater, and working with schools and local communities to create more sustainable drainage in built-up urban areas.

A United Utilities spokesperson said: “We know how important the issue of river quality is to our customers in Merseyside and we know there is more to be done – that’s why we’re challenging ourselves to move further and faster in tackling the problems. We’re bringing forward £900m of investment before 2025 across the region, £36m of which will be spent on projects on the Wirral with more to follow.

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“Since 1991, we have spent around £3bn in our treatment works and sewer systems in the Mersey basin, this has included a £200m extension to Liverpool wastewater treatment works. We’re pleased this investment has already had a positive impact with the wide variety of aquatic life that continues to return to the Mersey.

“Rainwater separation will involve re-plumbing the sewer network and, like the move from diesel to electric car infrastructure, this will take time. We are also carrying out alternative solutions like natural treatment systems such as reedbeds and wetlands and we are working with a range of partners including local authorities, schools and housing developers to increase levels of sustainable drainage in the region which will also play a key role in easing pressure on the sewer network.”

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