Friday, 13 March 2020

A Small Cod-Piece

Lota Lota is the scientific Latin name of the burbot fish [a type of cod]  No that is not a typo for turbot, it really is burbot, and these fish have been known in England for centuries. The burbot has been around forever -  they were originally Ice Age fish, that swam unhindered in a glacial world, until the ice retreated 10,000 years ago - leaving some remnant populations throughout the northern hemisphere, including East Anglia. 
But sadly there are not a lotta lotta them around anymore. And boy, are they ugly! Unlike the puffin, the water vole, and the hazel dormouse, the poor old burbot is anything but cute and photogenic. So it somehow misses out on featuring in the articles regarding endangered species.
Its other names are bubbot, mariah, freshwater ling, lingcod, eelpout and lawyer fish. It is the only freshwater fish of the cod family. It looks like a cross between a catfish and an eel, with a barbel [beard] on the chin. Burbot have tiny eyes - and they live in the deep dark cold waters, at the bottom of cold northern rivers. Their barbels detect the vibrations in the water when other creatures approach. 
Despite their unprepossessing appearance, they apparently taste delicious when cooked. Medieval cooks used them in pies and soups - and they are a prized delicacy in Russia [in Anna Karenina, burbot is served to royalty, and Chekhov wrote a short story called The Burbot] Burbot livers are rich in vitamins - more so than any other fish.
Pollution from agricultural chemicals, and also oil washing from roads into drains is believed to have contributed to the burbots' demise. Burbot have been successfully introduced to Belgium and Germany, and the Norfolk Rivers Trust hope to bring them back to the UK. There are flood plains in the Fenlands which would be suitable places. Apparently the reintroduction of beavers has proved beneficial, as beavers create a burbot-friendly habitat. Dave Ottewell, a fish specialist for Natural England says “Over recent years great efforts have been made to restore our freshwater environment, rectifying some of the historic damage inflicted on these valuable and complex systems... It is the successful restoration of these habitats that has led us to a position where we can now realistically look towards the reintroduction of this recently lost species back into its native range.”
George Monbiot, the environmentalist, is a great champion of the burbot, he writes "we have lost a part of our natural history. If the burbot is reintroduced we can once again experience the primeval pleasure of chancing upon a secretive, slimy, ugly fish, as ice-age hunters would surely have done. Somewhere in those marshes the burbot lurks and for me that sums up the serendipity and wonder of these chance encounters with wildlife. Just knowing it's there, that's something you can't put a price on" 
It would be wonderful if this ancient fish could be brought back to our native waterways, and once again there would be cod moving in a mysterious way along the riverbeds.


  1. What an interesting post! I recently watched a news item on BBC about restoring beds of sea grass along some of the UK coasts. Always nice to hear about environmental restorations and the reintroduction of once native species.

  2. When so much of the news these days is miserable, it is important to flag up the fact that there are people out there doing good things!

  3. I have never heard of the poor old burbot. Maybe we should try asking Sainsburys to stock it??

  4. I think it is a beautiful creature ! Where do they get those tongue twisting names from though ! Lol ! :)

  5. I have a lot of affection for 'ugly' animals like this! It's rather cute! I hope it works!

  6. You made me smile tonight! I have been cheering myself up by watching Upstart Crow, but this is a whole new dimension!

  7. By the way, sorry, the Monsieur comments were from me! Didn't realise I was logged in as CBC!!

    1. Ah, that makes sense now. I did wonder...


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