Blood-sucking 3ft-long vampire fish with razor-sharp teeth thriving in UK rivers

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    The UK’s six million wild swimmers had better keep an eye out after a sharp rise in the number of blood-sucking fish with rows of razor-sharp teeth in our rivers.

    The number of lampreys is rocketing after breeding season kicked off this month, with a surge in numbers in rivers, including the Great Ouse, Usk, Wye, Trent, Great Stour, Derwent, Severn, and Wear.

    The rise of the ‘vampire fish’ – which kill off other fish by latching onto them and sucking their blood out – has been flagged by wild swimmers across the UK.

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    Among the fans of wild swimming include former PM David Cameron, footy ace David Beckham, singer Ed Sheeran, Bake Off host Prue Leith, model Helena Christensen, and TV legend Lorraine Kelly.

    There are now believed to be around 20,000 sea lampreys – the largest, which can grow to over 3ft-long and which return from the sea to breed in rivers in May – in our rivers at the moment.

    That’s rise of around 40% compared to just 10 years ago.

    There are also around 120,000 river lamprey, and around 200,000 Brook lamprey. The fish – which predate dinosaurs by 100m years, have been known to attack humans.

    In 2007, sea lampreys attacked swimmers in Lake Champlain in north America, with several reporting ‘being set upon’ by up to seven lampreys at a time.

    On lamprey attack victim, Christopher Swain – an experienced wild swimmer – told how he was attacked by a lamprey while swimming in Lake Champlain.

    He said the creature latched onto him, adding: “I reached down to brush whatever it was off and I touched a living thing that was attached to me – it was thicker than my wrist and I had a bit of freak out.

    “The next thing I saw when I looked with my goggles was this snake-like animal.

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    “I tried to grab it but it slimed right out of my hand – it was a lamprey.

    “I pulled it off, but it shot back on – it did not want to be removed.

    “I got hold of the thing eventually and managed to throw it – they are extremely fast, extremely aggressive and very hard to fight off – they want your blood.”

    Lampreys are a protected species in the UK, after once being considered a great delicacy among Royalty and the


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