Greenwich Wildlife (12)

Isn’t this a fine sight? This is the sign of one healthy river – and a river that flows right through a capital city. And this photo was taken in Greenwich – right by the King’s Steps on Greenwich beach.

Emma lives in East Greenwich and has the enviable job (well on a gorgeous day like today, anyway) of working for the Environment Agency as a Fisheries Officer, looking after the Tidal Thames, Ravensbourne, Quaggy and Pool.

Twice a year she and her pals at the EA get to carry out fish surveys at eight sites on the river – from Richmond in the west to Stanford-le-Hope (Essex) in the east.

She says “The data collected in these fish surveys helps us to understand the health of the river, which we need to report back to the EU. We survey the populations of fish using several different methods over the period that the tide turns at low water (known as slack water). Using several different methods means that we can survey as much of the river at that site as possible – a beam trawl is used to look at the deaper water, a seine net is used to survey the shallower margins and a kick net is used to look for tiny fish at the water’s edge.”

The fish are from their last year’s survery and are remarkable for the sheer variety of species. The one on the top of this post shows bream – which is a freshwater fish, and smelt, an esturine species.

And this:

…is a sea bass  (don’t tell the local restaurateurs, eh…) which is very definitely a marine species. The Thames has them all. Emma tells me that all these fish were caught in the same half hour period, “showing how valuable the intertidal foreshore area is in Greenwich for all kinds of fish”.

The last pic isn’t quite Greenwich but I couldn’t resist it. It’s a sight that Emma spotted, presumably whilst up to her thighs in water, in Brookmill Park near Deptford Bridge station. It’s on the wall of the DLR line where it comes up to the banks of the river Ravensbourne. “The river here was restored when the DLR wanted to use the concrete river channel as a place to lay the new line, so they built a new natural channel for the river to run in next to it, creating valuable new habitat for fish, birds such as kingishers and other wildlife” – and rarer mammals too, such as this RiverBanksy, which I adore as it really looks like it’s wading through undergrowth by the emasculated river. Truly an urban species…

Emma and her fishermans friends will be back in Greenwich on the 5th October to carry out their autumn survey. They’ll be by the naval college, at low tide which is around 1430. Emma says “We should be there from around 1400. Keep an eye out for us and our little silver Environment Agency boat, anyone is welcome to come and watch!”

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7 Comments to “Greenwich Wildlife (12)”

  1. Andy says:

    It lifts the heart too see nature returning so far up river..Brill!


  2. Chris says:


    I remember a doctor telling me that years ago, people who jumped into the Thames to kill themselves usually failed as they were rescued in time.

    But a couple of days later they succeeded as the river was so full of crap that they died from poisoning.

  3. Geoff3 says:

    The Bass wouldn’t make for good eating as it wouldn’t taste of anything, seawater fish caught this far up river in brackish water tend to be really bland.

  4. Em says:

    Unfortunately its not all good news – although it really is great to see the river recovering from the times when it was declared biologically dead in the 1950s, this recovery is fragile.

    The Victorian sewers of London can overflow into the river during rainfall events, which can lead to fish dying due to crashes in oxygen levels. One such outfall is in Deptford Creek (Greenwich Pumping Station). Species such as smelt, the fish used for the traditional whitebait suppers at the Trafalgar, are particularly sensitive to these overflow events. More info here, including some clever little animations –


  5. scared of chives says:


    Fascinating animation – thanks (and no pictures of real poo).

  6. Sam says:

    thanks Em.
    Glad I don’t live in Beckton ;-)

    39 million tonnes and increasing all the time…