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Jack Perks introduces his ambitious project to get beneath the surface of our waterways and film all 54 species of British freshwater fish
By Jack Perks
6 February 2014

Jack Perks

Iím a wildlife cameraman and photographer by profession, and cover all species from birds to insects, but I have always had an interest in fish, particularly freshwater fish, since growing up in Nottinghamshire there wasnít exactly much in the way of a coast locally!

Freshwater fish face so many threats now; what with barriers to their movement, pollution, habitat loss and invasive species to name but a few, so I feel that itís important to document and to show whatís happening. Itís often a case of Ďout of sight out of mindí with freshwater fish so Iím very keen to put them Ďin sight and in mindí both with the public and with any other bodies that control, areas of water.

Species such as eels, lamprey, shad and salmon all struggle in rivers that have extensive barriers on them and this can reduce numbers drastically - and when you consider that eels have declined in numbers by about 95% in the last 50 years itís not a good picture. Although rivers have mostly improved in recent years they still get a fair amount of pollution flushed into them and there are no rivers in lowland England and Wales unaffected. Invasive species such as signal crayfish and mink can have a massive impact on local river systems too, and when they get a foothold they are often hard to remove.

The aim of my film is to show off as many species as possible in their natural habitat throughout England, Wales, Scotland and, hopefully, Ireland too. Species like shad can be found in the Welsh Wye while glacial species such as vendace, whitefish and charr can be found in the Scottish lochs and Lake District waters. Showcasing these fish species, most of which the public will never have seen, raises awareness of them and puts them in the conservation spotlight; indeed many nature reserves in the UK have wetland habitats but few actually try to improve fish numbers or try to benefit the habitat solely for the fish. The aim of this film is to raise the profile of our freshwater fish Ė and hopefully you all can help.

The aim is to produce a short film with clips of each species, with insert films showing me going after certain species up and down the country. The film will initially be shown at a private viewing at a Nottingham cinema and at a later date put online. Help is always appreciated, so if you know of a venue that has clear water and a species I need to film then please get in touch! As i'll be appearing infront of the camera a second shooter/assistant would be benificial for some shoots certainly as would a editor or other media roles. As the budget is tight (I hate saying this as I hear it all the time from clients) I can't pay but its a good bit of experience.

Some species, such as the spined loach, are hardly known by most people and even anglers generally havenít heard of them; a small fish with remarkable patterns they live most of their lives in the silt filter feeding, they are limited to the east of England to five rivers and their tributaries. Other species like lamprey, which hold no angling value, are still a part of our river systems and need to be preserved.

Species Iím looking to film include barbel, carp, zander, ruffe, wels catfish and bitterling. Although the main emphasis is on native species if I can include some of the non natives it would be good to show them off too as it gives the full picture of the current state of our fish fauna. There will be many challenges on the course of this project with some species only being around for a few months, while others look their best in the breeding season, usually at a time when most anglers arenít on the river.

Having filmed with the BBC for a few series including chub eating blackberries on ĎThe Great British Yearí and filming on a urban river in Nottingham for ĎSpringwatchí showing it was, in fact, full of life, Iím keen to get fish on TV to wider audiences. Our fish species have some fantastic behaviour that just arenít being shown; whether itís bitterling injecting their eggs into swan mussels, grayling fighting for the best spot in the river or pike working together to mob roach into a shoal.

For the past year Iíve filmed as many species as I could find; you can click HERE (or see below) to take a look at some of the footage of the 28 species of fish Iíve got to date from venues in Hampshire, Norfolk, Nottingham, Leicester, Derby and Lincoln.

Although Iím now after the less common species Iím also looking to get some of the better-known species like carp, roach and pike and put them into more of a natural history perspective. Clarity of water is the key to my filming and this does limit where I can go, meaning most commercial fisheries are of little use, so I need to stick mainly to rivers and clear stillwaters to find species.

Jack Perks Photography - Underwater & Wildlife Photographer
Email: jackperksphotography@hotmail.co.uk
Website - www.jackperksphotography.com
Twitter - @JackPerksPhoto

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