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Saving Denmark's Houting fish -

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Cheryl Northey: Houting needs slow-moving water, gravel and evergreen plants to spawn in, but since
the 1900s Denmark's wetlands and marshes have been drained for farming land and its rivers have
been straightened into fast-moving canals. These river modifications, together with fish farms, are
a major threat to the survival of the houting fish because their natural habitat has been

Hans Ole Hansen: This is Bachmann's Mill and we're standing at the end of the millpond to try to
allow salmon and trout to get past the obstacle by building this fish ladder.

Cheryl Northey: Hans Ole Hansen, a biologist with the Danish Forest and Nature Agency, saying
houting cannot jump over obstacles like salmon and trout and therefore can't get to spawning
grounds in the upper streams of Danish rivers. Bachmann's Mill in the south-western Danish town of
Tonder and the millpond is an example of obstacles preventing houting migration to spawning areas.
Tonder was a marsh area that was drained for farming. In areas like these where the river was for
straightened for drainage, most houting young (or 'fry') are flushed out to sea in the fast-moving
river and die. The houting project will create 90 hectares of wetland in this area because they act
as nurseries for houting fry. They mature in stagnant water for three to four months until their
physiology changes so they can tolerate the salt water of the Wadden Sea.

Hans Ole Hansen: This is the actual production area...

Cheryl Northey: Fish farms are another major threat to the houting's survival in Danish rivers.
Conventional fish farms divert river streams to production ponds and houting fry are carried along
with the current into fish farms where they are eaten. But Jan Steinbring Jensen from the Danish
Forest and Nature Agency says new rules and regulations for fish farmers will prevent this from

Jan Steinbring Jensen: Their water intake is going to be reduced, so this situation will make it a
lot more difficult to manage the fish farms in the traditional way.

Cheryl Northey: Fish farmers will have to switch to high-tech methods of fish farming that use
concrete dams and ground water, so they won't be taking water from the rivers at all. The new
method of fish farming is more efficient and these can produce up to four times more fish, says

Hans Ole Hansen: It only uses a very small amount from the river, if at all. With the recycling, he
cleans the water thoroughly, so he does not pollute anymore. He can control the water because
groundwater is much more...the temperature, the chemistry, everything is much more constant than if
you have to take water in from the river.

Cheryl Northey: Those fish farmers who have switched to this method have seen production increase
from 1,000 tonnes of fish per year to more than 2,000. Hansen says not only does the new method of
fish farming create a free passage for the houting in Danish rivers but it also reduces pollution.

Hans Ole Hansen: The fish farms we are buying are producing as much phosphorus and nitrogen as a
sewage plant in Esbjerg, which is the fourth largest town in Denmark, and by closing the fish farms
we'll get rid of the pollution problem for ever.

Cheryl Northey: By the end of 2009 the houting project will have restored or re-meandered sections
of the rivers Varde, Sneum, Ribe and Vida and removed obstacles like fish farms. It will also
recreate wetland areas for nurseries and restore meanders to create good spawning grounds so
houting will have a better chance of survival. Jan Steinbring Jensen says it's not just the houting
who will benefit once the rivers are restored to their original condition.

Jan Steinbring Jensen: The water quality is generally improved and the pollution load on the Wadden
Sea is reduced, so this will be a tremendous raise of nature quality in the south-western part of

Cheryl Northey: There is also a financial incentive to restore and maintain the houting habitat. In
Denmark around 300,000 people are involved in recreational fishing. Healthy rivers mean more fish
stocks, and that means more opportunities for farmers or the state to earn money from recreational
fishing licences. Cheryl Northey, Tonder, Denmark.