Fish stocks up in rivers in Flanders and Brussels


Thanks to wastewater treatment systems, the oxygen levels – and hence the number of fish – in rivers in Flanders and Brussels are healthier than they’ve been in decades

Best results in 70 years

The number of fish in Flemish rivers has increased substantially over the last decade, according to the Institute for Nature and Forest Research (Inbo). The organisation regularly examines the presence of fish in local rivers and has found that total numbers as well as the number of species have increased.

“There are significantly more fish in the rivers than 10 years ago,” said Jan Breine of Inbo’s aquatic management group. “The situation hasn’t been this good in 70 years.”

Inbo found 41 fish species in the Scheldt estuary – the part of the Scheldt river and its tributaries from Zandvliet to Ghent. Some species used to be rare in the region but are now present in large numbers, like the smelt and twait shad.

Inbo cites the improvement in water quality as the reason for the improved figures. Untreated wastewater stopped being discharged into the Scheldt some 10 years ago, and a wastewater treatment plant came into operation in the north of Brussels in 2007. Until then, wastewater was released into the Zenne river without treatment.

As a result of the changes, there is more oxygen in the water, including in other rivers such as the Rupel, Dijle and Nete. Inbo did stress that the work wasn’t finished. “On a European level, the water quality in the Scheldt is still only moderate,” said Breine. “There is still room for improvement.”

Photo: The Scheldt river near Dendermonde
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