HEDGEHOGS are coming to the rescue of fish in the River Wear.
As predators reduce the levels of fish in the river, an army of the spiny creatures have taken up the cause.
But these are hedgehogs with a difference – they live underwater, they’re green and they are a metre wide and are being used for the first time in this country.
They are in fact fish refuges, designed to offer a safe place that is out of reach from hungry birds and have gained their name from their spiky appearance.
After being used widely across lakes and waterways in the U.S. this will be the first time they have been deployed in the UK.
Twelve hedgehogs will be placed by Environment Agency officers near Prebends Bridge, in Durham.
The devices will be used in a 4.5 metre deep section of the river and when fastened together they create a space that any fish can hide in, but birds can’t swim through.
They will also still allow anglers to fish among them and will be placed in deep enough sections of the river to not prohibit boats passing over them.
John Hepworth, from Durham City Angling Club, said: “Only five years ago the River Wear attracted anglers from almost every corner of the country, but today there are fewer anglers because fish numbers have been depleted.
“We fully support the work that the agency are doing in Durham, and the work they continue to do on the River Wear and its tributaries.
“These refuges are much needed and will help to protect and restore the Wear’s silver fish populations back to what they were.”
Paul Frear, fisheries officer at the Environment Agency, said: “Local anglers are very concerned that fish numbers continue to be affected by cormorants in Durham.
“We wanted to try a new approach, that will help protect fish stocks without targeting the cormorants.
“The hedgehogs will really help boost fish numbers as they will prevent cormorants from catching coarse fish.”