Hopes of a prestigious final resting place for Britain’s greatest carp were cruelly dashed on Friday when the Natural History Museum dismissed the specimen as a scientifically unimportant, non-native “angling trophy”.
Two Tone, a 45-year-old mirror carp weighing 67lb 14oz, was renowned among fisherman who spent weeks camped out by Conningbrook Lake in Kent in the hopes of catching it, and turned out in their dozens to mourn its death in 2010.
But this week it emerged that the body of the fish – dubbed the “marriage wrecker” because anglers became so obsessed with it - was still languishing in a chest freezer, after the Natural History Museum spurned an offer to put it on display.
Charles Jardine, the Countryside Alliance’s angling consultant and a renowned fisherman, yesterday urged curators to reconsider, arguing that Two Tone was “a part of culture” and that the museum would be “the natural place for it”.
But in a stinging rebuke, Oliver Crimmen, the Natural History Museum’s senior fish curator insisted there was no place for Two Tone and told the carp angling community that “theirs is a somewhat specialist interest”.
Two Tone (PA)
“We are grateful for the offer of the body of the record-breaking carp nicknamed ‘Two Tone’, but the original offer was made with conditions the Museum could not meet,” he said.
According to Mid Kent Fisheries, which manages Conningbrook Lake, curators originally offered to take the body and preserve it but said it could not be put on public display.
Crimmen said: “The criteria for displaying specimens in the Natural History Museum’s galleries are carefully planned and considered and we are generally unable to accede to requests from members of the public to show their specimens in the galleries on demand.”
Carp were “not native British fish, having been introduced to this country for ornamental and food purposes in medieval times”, he said.
He acknowledged that carp “attract a fanatical following among specialist anglers who compete to catch the largest and heaviest individual”, and that some specimen were “regarded with great affection by their followers in the carp angling community”.
But he said: “The Natural History Museum’s 80 million specimen collection is mostly comprised of scientifically valuable specimens whose provenance and identity establish important details of our accumulating knowledge of biodiversity.
“We do have some specimens whose value as cultural icons is well known, but with due respect to the carp angling community, theirs is a somewhat specialist interest and setting up 'Two Tone' for an angling audience in an appropriate venue may be a more suitable outcome than consigning the body to our research collections.”
Crimmen said the museum had 140 carp specimen from around the world but that they were not on display and were “retained for their scientific value rather than as angling trophies”.
With the Natural History Museum out of the question, Two Tone is likely to either end up being professionally stuffed and mounted in a local community hub, being placed back into the lake to decompose, or being buried underneath a plaque on site.
Jardine said that it would be a “ghastly waste” to see the fish thrown back in the lake. “If it is the largest of its type and it is so revered it seems a shame we don’t celebrate it in some way. It’s a magnificent creature,” he said. “The Natural History Museum would be the natural place. I would hope that they would reconsider.”
“From a historic point of view, I think it really is important. I think it is a part of culture,” he said.
"It’s no more a ‘specialist’ interest than the collection of insects or pterodactyls or any other exhibits in the Natural History Museum. To cite probably the nation’s most participated sport as ‘specialist’ is a little bit unusual and unrealistic."
He said that an increasing number of people went carp fishing and would want to see it in the museum. “If [the museum] is a national entity, which it is, it should I would have thought reflect the communities its supposed serve,” he said.
Jardine said he hoped there might be enough carp fisherman out there to group together and fund having it preserved elsewhere.
Mark Lloyd, chief executive of the Angling Trust, said: “Two Tone is a precious part of angling’s long and rich heritage in this country and has contributed to the enjoyment of thousands of anglers over the years. I hope that a way can be found for the fish to be preserved for posterity to mark its special significance.”