Use your loaf: save Diss Mere

Feeding the ducks is a simple pursuit that gives pleasure to thousands of people.But now visitors to Diss Mere have been told they shouldn't feed them with bread.

Feeding the ducks is a simple pursuit that gives pleasure to thousands of people.

But now visitors to Diss Mere have been told they shouldn't feed them with bread.

Experts have warned Diss Town Council that feeding bread to the ducks can lead to outbreaks of blue-algae which can cause illness in humans and kill fish.

And people's kindness, in giving what many regard as a harmless treat to the water fowl inhabiting Diss Mere, is causing an environmental headache for the council which has overall responsibility for the lake.

Last year, the Mere suffered a toxic bloom of blue-green algae which can cause skin irritation and stomach upsets in humans, and can prove fatal to dogs and fish stocks.

Unless the council can convince residents and visitors to break with tradition and stop throwing in bread, which pollutes the water and fuels levels of the harmful spore, and switch to a less harmful alternative there could well be another unwelcome outbreak this summer.

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Town mayor Simon Olander said: 'It isn't the case we want to stop people feeding the ducks, we are not an authority to try and dictate to people. But we have been told by the Environment Agency it is bread and the type of food they are putting into the Mere that is having a detrimental effect on the fish and other life in the mere.

'The year just gone was particularly bad and due to the climate change and warmer weather this [problem] is not going to go away. We would rather people spend perhaps 20p on duck food than 20p on bread.

'With the help of the Environment Agency, who are the people who know about water pollution, we are looking at viable alternatives.'

The council is planning to launch an educational campaign to raise public awareness that could include visiting local schools to encourage children to feed the ducks responsibly.

One idea is to have vending machines beside the Mere where people could buy a specially prepared mix, although Mr Olander was concerned these might get vandalised if installed.

Bread breaks down in water and uses up oxygen as it decomposes. Algal bloom is created when there are low oxygen levels in the water, so throwing in bread increases the risk.

Bridget Marr, of the Environment Agency, said: 'We fully support Diss Town Council in their efforts to improve the water quality and ecological balance of Diss Mere. Any measures taken to reduce the nutrient input to the Mere, including reducing the amount of bread thrown into the water, will be beneficial to the wildlife that it supports,' she said.'

'We have worked closely with Diss Town Council and Diss and District Angling Club in the past to look at ways of improving the management of the Mere and look forward to providing any further advice if required.'

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