News

Wednesday, 18th October 2017

The winners of the WTT / Thames Water Conservation Awards 2017 are:

Contribution to Wild Trout Conservation:

Botany Bay Conservancy Restoration Project, Botany Bay Community Interest Group, Duncton, Western Rother tributary, West Sussex

Medium-Scale Habitat Enhancement Scheme:

Bringing Back the Bulbourne, Environment Agency, on the River Bulborne near Hemel Hempstead.

Large-Scale Habitat Enhancement Scheme

Swindale Beck and Haweswater estate Restoration Scheme, EA & RSPB, near Shap, Cumbria.

Judges’ Commendation:

Mill River Nature Reserve, Shingay-cum-Wendy Wildlife Committee / South Cambs Conservation Consultants partnership near Royston, Cambridgeshire

Click here for the Judges’ report.

Wild Trout Hero: 

Vaughan Lewis of Windrush AEC Limited, in recognition of his tremendous professional and voluntary contribution to river restoration and wild trout conservation. 

Wednesday, 4th October 2017

With abstraction pressures on chalkstreams regularly hitting the headlines over the past year, spear-headed often by former WTT President Charles Rangeley-Wilson, we have a new contribution from another young researcher to add to the WTT blog.

Mickaël Dubois is a PhD student, sponsored by Affinity Water and the Environment Agency, and based in the School of Water, Energy and Environment at Cranfield University. He first conducted a bachelor degree in Biology at the University of Namur, and then a two years MSc in Biology of Organisms and Ecology, during which he studied on the Campus of the University of Namur and of the Catholic University of Louvain.

His MSc thesis involved the biological and hydromorphological monitoring of the Petit Bocq River after restoration by the LIFE Walphy project. Following an Internship in Wales at Cardiff University on another project related to freshwater ecosystems (epilithic community diversity and the nitrogen cycling) and fully embracing British culture led him to his current position at Cranfield. This is all rather neatly summarised below!

Check out his blog, here.

Tuesday, 3rd October 2017

Around the globe, the reintroduction of large woody debris / material is a common tool for river restoration schemes in an effort to promote biodiversity and enhance natural flood protection. Several reviews of the scientific literature have concluded that it is generally considered as good practice, yet results do vary (e.g. it is often difficult to demonstrate an increase in fish which is what most anglers want), and it is difficult to compare across studies because of the various ways restorations have been carried out. A new study by Murray Thompson and colleagues provides valuable new insights, critically using a ‘multiple before-after control-impact’ study design to allow such comparisons across different rivers.

They carried out biological, physical and chemical surveys of five UK rivers in the months before and after the addition of large woody debris: on the Bure, Loddon, Lyde, Test and Wensum. Three stretches were sampled on each river: a ‘restored’ stretch where a large willow or alder tree was felled and tethered to the river bed; a ‘control’ stretch which resembled the ‘restored’ stretch before tree-felling; and a ‘target’ stretch which contained a substantial tree which had fallen 3 to 5 years earlier.

Murray says: "Restoration of woody debris has been used to enhance in-river habitat throughout the world for over a century in tens of thousands of projects. Woody debris is increasingly used to reinstate natural processes, restore biodiversity and thus recover degraded river ecosystems. Yet, there is a striking lack of causal evidence to support this approach.

In the first experiment of its kind conducted across multiple rivers, we set out to test if, by felling trees in-river, biodiversity and food web metrics were restored relative to 'control' (i.e. unrestored) and ‘target’ conditions where naturally fallen trees were already in place. We were able to demonstrate causal links between habitat restoration, biodiversity restoration and food-web responses. For instance, elevated species richness in restored areas relative to controls was primarily driven by the repopulation of rare invertebrate taxa which also had many potential predators.

We hope complementary approaches will be adopted in future studies, conducted across a range of restoration projects and river systems with extended temporal monitoring to better direct conservation efforts towards the most effective solutions”

This excellent piece of robust work contributes to the evidence base we rely upon at WTT so heavily to underpin our practical approaches to river restoration. The paper abstract is available online early, and it is hoped the full article will be available, Open Access, in due course.

Friday, 22nd September 2017

UPDATE: To see a report and photos of the day, see Paul Gaskell's blog post here

Join the fun and see the habitat improvement works on the River Witham in Wyndham Park, Grantham, Lincs on Sunday 24 September. And whilst you are there, say 'hello' to WTT Conservation Officer Tim Jacklin. 

  • Learn about the river improvements across the Witham and how you can get involved
  • Discover the variety of wildlife found in the Witham
  • Make wildflower seed bombs at the craft stall
  • Follow the Witham Nature Trail
  • The Wonderful Witham Art and Photography Competition
  • Fly casting - learn to fish with the professionals
  • Pooh Sticks Race finale at 4pm

More information here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/explore-the-wonders-of-the-witham-in-free-wyndham-park-event

 

Wednesday, 6th September 2017

WTT Conservation Officer Tim Jacklin is working on a project to ‘let the Dove flow’ by breaching some of the 100 weirs that were created in the early 20th Century.

See below for more details or the visit the National Trust website.

let the dover flow

The River Dove in Derbyshire forms a key part of Dovedale’s beauty as it meanders through the valley below steep woods and wildflower-rich grassland.


We are working with the National Trust, Natural England, Environment Agency and local fishing clubs to re-naturalise the river, improving the habitat it provides for fish including trout and grayling and birds such as kingfishers and dippers - as well as all the freshwater invertebrates they rely on for food.

Anglers in the early twentieth century built over one hundred weirs across the river to create pools that they could stock with farmed trout. The weirs trap silt, blanketing the gravels on the riverbed that invertebrates like river-flies need, and where trout lay their eggs.

The partnership will work together to slowly breach some of the weirs, restoring the natural, fast flow of the river across the rocks, allowing gravel beds to become exposed and providing places for fish to spawn and invertebrates to live. Large woody debris (fallen trees) will also be carefully secured in the river to create even more habitat by increasing variety in the way the river flows.

The National Trust’s ecologist in the Peak District, Chris Wood, describes the current dammed areas of the river as ‘wet deserts, with no food and no variety for wildlife.’ But the beauty of this project is that it’s not just wildlife that benefits.

The two angling clubs involved prefer nowadays to fish for wild trout rather than stocking the river, so this increases their enjoyment of their pastime. Tim Jacklin of the Wild Trout Trust, says, ‘Catching a domesticated animal that’s been released into a modified artificial environment is nothing compared to the satisfaction of deceiving a cunning wild fish.’

We believe the project will also improve the beauty of the valley for visitors by making the river ‘wilder’ and more natural looking, returning it to the rugged landscape admired by pre-Victorian painters and writers like Izaak Walton.

There’s been a lot of background work to the project. We’ve carried out a full heritage assessment of the weirs so we know which ones are particularly important in terms of the history of the valley – some are associated with old mills, for instance. We’ll only be working on the ones that aren’t significant in this respect. Similarly, the partnership has tested the silt to make sure that it won’t pollute the river once it starts to move, and carried out modelling to ensure none of our work will increase the chance of flooding.

Friday, 1st September 2017

Wild Trout Trust founder and former President, Charles Rangeley-Wilson, highlights the plight of chalk streams in the south east in a guest blog for the World Wildlife Fund.

Click here for more photos of sadly dry, or nearly dry, chalk streams. 

Dry chalk stream

Wednesday, 30th August 2017

If you had not noticed, our Research & Conservation Officer, Jonny Grey, has been coordinating an interesting set of guest blogs from young researchers who are currently chipping away at the coalface of academia. These guys are using state-of-the-art techniques to address important questions with regard to trout and other species, broader lake and river ecology, and aspects of management. So far we have had articles on issues ranging from abstraction to watercress, and a whole host in between. Have a quick search back through the blog, here. This is a great opportunity for those researchers to communicate their science to a wider, non-technical audience.

Today, we have a new contribution from Jess Fordyce, a PhD student from the University of Glasgow based at the Scottish Centre for Ecology and the Natural Environment (SCENE). She has been fascinated by the natural environment since childhood, especially anything aquatic.  Her summer holidays were usually spent rummaging around rock pools on the beach for any animal life.  To push this passion toward a career, Jess studied at the University of Glasgow in Marine and Freshwater Biology, where she became particularly passionate about freshwater ecology. Although Jess had not studied genetics, she found using genetics techniques to answer important ecological questions an exciting prospect and hence began a PhD looking at genetic, morphological and life-history structuring in brown trout.

Read about some of her aims, here.

Tuesday, 29th August 2017

This workshop will take place in Birmingham on September 25 and 26 at Aston Business School. The workshop has been organised by the Dam Removal Partnership, Severn Rivers Trust and the Environment Agency.

Click here for the full details including booking.

The draft programme has contributors from across Europe and will be an important event to learn about dam removal, the challenges facing different organisations across Europe as well as an important opportunity to exchange knowledge and develop networks that will help deliver dam removal in years to come. ‘The biggest obstacle to dam removal is in our heads”, we hope this workshop will help remove this dam.

Confirmed presentations will cover the following topics:

• Community involvement and legal aspects of dam removal

• Case studies of dam removals in both urban and rural locations and reasons why dam removal is not always possible

• Dam prioritisation, what is better to removal, one large or several small dams?

• Ecological and river habitat recovery post removal

Day two of the workshop includes site visits to the River Lugg and the River Teme.

Tuesday, 29th August 2017

The Angling Trust has released a 3-minute video to highlight the impacts of agriculture on the ecology of rivers, in particular on fish and the invertebrates on which they feed. The video has been released to coincide with publication of a major investigation into the problem of agricultural pollution by the Bureau for Investigative Journalism, published in The Guardian.

 

The Environment Agency's 2016 report on pollution incidents can be viewed here.

The top reasons for water courses failing to achieve Good Ecological Status as required by the EU Water Framework Directive can be viewed here

Agricultural practices pollute rivers by causing excessive water to run off the surface of the land into brooks, streams and rivers, taking with it soil, pesticides, fertilisers and slurry.  This kills fish, invertebrates and plant life – reducing fish populations for anglers to target and consequently destroying the economic benefits that angling brings to rural areas in particular. Furthermore, agricultural pollution leads to pollution of public water supplies, higher bills for water customers and council tax-payers, flooding of homes and businesses, damage to the shellfish industry and even road traffic accidents from increased mud and debris on rural roads.

Most agricultural pollution incidents are minor, but when there are thousands of them they add up to the progressive death of rivers, lakes and ponds by a thousand cuts. Half of all freshwater species are in decline and 13% are threatened with extinction. Fewer than 1 in 6 water bodies in England and Wales achieve Good Ecological Status required by the EU Water Framework Directive and the principal reason for this, other than the physical modification of rivers, is diffuse rural pollution, which largely arises from agriculture, according to Environment Agency data. In many areas, the problems have grown significantly worse over the past decade as a result of the vast expansion of maize production to feed anaerobic digesters, the intensification of dairy farming and the rapid growth in poultry farms.

Agriculture is also now responsible for the largest number of the most serious (category 1) pollutions of any sector, above sewage and industry. These are catastrophic for river ecology and angling because they cause significant fish kills, which can have an impact on stocks for decades.

The video has been produced as part of the Angling Trust’s Save Our Salmon campaign, which is supported by readers of Trout & Salmon magazine and the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, a leading charitable trust. Agricultural pollution has been a key reason for the decline of Atlantic salmon stocks in England and Wales. In fact, only this year thousands of adult and juvenile salmon have been killed in slurry pollution incidents in Wales alone.

The Angling Trust has in recent years worked with WWF-UK to take legal action against the government for failing to tackle diffuse pollution of protected water bodies. This legal action resulted in a court order requiring the Environment Agency to consider implementing Water Protection Zones where voluntary measures have failed to deliver water quality improvements required by international law.

Mark Lloyd, Chief Executive of the Angling Trust & Fish Legal said: “Government figures demonstrate that there is an endemic problem with pollution from agriculture in England and Wales. The regulatory system is currently failing. The issue seems to be partly the responsibility of lots of different agencies and authorities and government policy has driven light touch regulation for too long.  Billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money are spent on subsidising an industry which causes higher water bills, more flooding and a decline in wildlife. There are of course many responsible farmers who manage their land well; they are increasingly frustrated to see so many of their neighbours cutting corners and causing damage to the environment which costs everyone in society dearly. Action is needed to save our rivers now – fish stocks cannot wait until the post-Brexit arrangements for agricultural subsidies are finalised to stop being poisoned and suffocated.”

Wednesday, 16th August 2017

In case you have missed the recent flurry of news re Pacific pink salmon, Oncorhynchus gorbuscha, turning up in unusually high numbers in both rod and net catches around the British Isles, here is the latest advice to download from the Environment Agency.

The take home messages for if you capture a pink salmon:

  • If you are confident that you have caught a pink salmon it should be dispatched and retained. Please do NOT return it to the river.
  • If you are unsure about the identification, if possible please call the Environment Agency on our hotline number (0800 80 70 60). If possible retain the fish alive in a keep net. Otherwise, you should release it.
  • Please report your capture, including details of where you caught it and, if possible, a photograph of the fish, to Jonathan Shelley at the Environment Agency by email: Jonathan.shelley@environment-agency.gov.uk or by post: Brampton Fisheries Laboratory, Brampton, Peterborough, Bromholme Lane, PE28 4NE.
  • If possible, please make the whole fish available to us for inspection and further analysis. Otherwise, a sample of the scales would be very helpful.
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