News

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.
Monday, 14th August 2017

On Friday 4th August, WTT were invited to contribute to a workshop on Survey Awareness Training, organised by the Environment Agency at Lateral House in Leeds. This was in response to the tree works across Yorkshire which caused some consternation and has already resulted in the production of a briefing note – Tree Works: Lessons Learned.

The stated aim was to provide a clear message to EA staff and external surveyors involved in tree management, to ensure that survey work will be carried out in a consistent manner using the methodology provided during the workshop.

Both Jonny Grey and Paul Gaskell were involved both in the field and in the news at various times in the build up to this workshop, which morphed and changed date on numerous occasions. Ultimately, Jonny gave the presentation on Friday and here reports back for us.

Around 90 people attended the workshop, from various Fisheries, Biodiversity & Geomorphology (FBG), and Flood & Coastal Risk Management (FCRM) teams, from across the Yorkshire & NE region.

The FCRM perspective of trees was presented by Sarah Burtonwood & Jos Wattam. There was a distinct focus on managing trees on EA assets, i.e. flood banks, rather than in natural and semi-natural watercourses which to my mind avoided the focus of the meeting.

While mention was made of debris accumulating on screens and blinding bridges, from the photographic evidence presented, the contribution from living material (i.e. that which a flood had actually caused to break off rather than simply already dead and detached material transported by the flood) appeared negligible. My discussion re the living material I saw removed from the Aire actually performing a valuable ecosystem service by filtering out the real debris, and that removal of each of these filters was simply allowing more debris to accumulate downstream, seemed to float right by.

Mention was made of the Assets Maintenance Standard handbook, which essentially outlines a 'traffic light system', and while there was lip service paid to green light scenarios of retaining a tree in situ or moving it / stabilising it, there was no discussion as to how the EA’s own existing documentation (Working with Natural Processes, and Keeping Rivers Cool / Getting Ready for Climate Change) actually influenced the decision making process in the field as to whether a tree benefitted from a green or was shown a straight red.

Richard Anelay, now of EA National Capital Programme Management Service, introduced a new process by which FBG team members (and contracted ecologists) may input to the development of any detailed Environmental Action Plans. This seemed like a worthwhile development, but from an outsider perspective, one cannot help but wonder whether there will be an override button: FCRM trumps FBG.

Protected Species Issues was presented by Andrew Virtue, a Biodiversity Officer liaising with the Assets Performance teams. Andrew did a sterling job of covering the majority of legal protection for various species that are likely to be influenced by tree works. He did omit the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act 1975 which states that it is an offence to wilfully disturb any spawn or spawning fish, or any bed, bank or shallow on which any spawn or spawning fish may be, but he has already included it in documents arising and moving forward!

I presented the case for the trees (aided by slides from Paul) and below are messages I wanted people to take away:

  • Trees perform all manner of valuable ecosystem services, including aspects of natural flood management
  • There aren’t enough of them – look at our tree cover versus the rest of Europe!
  • All instream wood is creating habitat, directly and indirectly via flow affecting geomorphology. This is especially important on rivers like the Aire that have been heavily modified and in many places are simple trapezoidal channels in cross-section.
  • All trailing and overhanging branches contribute benefits to fauna as well – from food and egg-laying substrate, to shade and shelter, to fishing perches and focal points for aerial mating swarms. It’s important to appreciate ecology for all life-stages and at very different times during the year.
  • If it’s stable (living, survived the three worst floods on record, etc), leave it be – otherwise do consider helping to stabilise it in situ rather than expend resources removing it (and hence removing all associated ecosystem benefits along with it).
  • Provide compelling evidence that Flood Risk will be reduced by removal, i.e. that taxpayers money is being spent well.
  • Consider a quick and dirty cost-benefit analysis of what it costs to remove debris from amongst living trees (OK) and trees themselves (questionable in most instances given the above) versus what could be achieved with the same money for Natural Flood Management. Without any tangible evidence of a reduction in flooding, how can such expenditure of public money be justified? We all make mistakes and hopefully learn from them, but I dread to think how much has been spent to date on reviewing and refining this process.

Gavin Usher (Operations Team Leader) summed up that he hoped the Yorkshire area response to improve process and practice in how tree works surveys and consultations are carried out in the future would be seen as a good example by the EA nationally. And that this was not box ticked, that the outcomes of the workshop would contribute to further development of both process and practice.

We shall see. 

Friday, 11th August 2017

We are delighted to announce that WTT’s latest recruit is Ed Eley, our Assistant Conservation Officer, who’ll work especially closely with Mike Blackmore and Andy Thomas in southern England. We chose Ed from a field of truly excellent applicants, impressed by his passion for rivers and wild trout and his practical background, including some high-level chainsaw skills; he’s also a very keen trout fisher.

Ed’s post is inspired by Pasco James, a young man who died tragically in 2010 and in whose memory we hold our annual 3 Fly Fundraiser at Meon Springs Trout Fishery. The money this event has raised will fund Ed’s post and hopefully allow him to absorb knowledge from Mike, Andy and the other WTT top-notch chaps and contribute to our work across the south. 

Ed Eley 2017

Monday, 7th August 2017

WTT Conservation Officer Tim Jacklin gives an update below on a weir removal project on the Brailsford Brook. The Brook had over 40 weirs, approximately one every 40 metres.  They were installed to create a series of fishable pools in a small brook, but the pools are silted and the weirs are disrupting the natural functioning of the Brook and its wildlife – including trout. You can read Tim’s Advisory Visit report here.

Following weir removal, rivers and streams will adjust to the new flow regime and this period of adjustment may need some management, as Tim describes below:

The WTT has been working on the Brailsford Brook in Derbyshire where in August 2016 five weirs were removed to improve conditions for wild trout. Follow-up work this year has included further weir removals and work to increase bank stability. A number of alder root plates from trees being removed from a nearby lake restoration project provided a great opportunity for using natural materials to stabilise the outside of a meander bend. The bend was experiencing accelerated rates of erosion, leading to widening and shallowing of the river channel. The root plates were positioned to create a new bank line, then the bank was reprofiled behind. A 10-m wide buffer strip is to be fenced and planted with trees. The new bank provides great cover for fish around the outside of the bend and the increased stability will drive down the river bed level through scour, deepening the pool and creating good adult trout habitat.

Brailsford 1

Following removal of several small weirs on the Ednaston Brook, work was carried out to increase the stability of the banks (before the works).

 

Brailsford 2

Root plates from alder trees (which were being removed from the site of a nearby lake restoration) were used to protect the outside of a meander bend. These provide great cover for fish, plus will promote bed scour and deepening of the pool, making it more suitable for larger trout.

 

Brailsford 3

Further work will include fencing out livestock and planting trees to increase bank stability in the long term.

Monday, 7th August 2017

On the WTT blog, another PhD candidate from the prolific group of Dr Martyn Lucas at Durham University has offered us some insight into heron predation.

Angus Lothian has always been interested in animal behaviour and studied seabird breeding behaviour to fish migration behaviour during the course of a BSc and MRes at the University of Glasgow. At the Scottish Centre for Ecology and the Natural Environment (SCENE), he monitored the emigration of Atlantic salmon smolts in the River Deveron, Scotland, and picked up invaluable skills in telemetry techniques which ultimately led him to his PhD. Currently, he is furthering our understanding of how fish behave around engineered structures in rivers, such as weirs and fishways, and establishing passage success for various species of coarse fish, as well as our beloved trout.

The observed predation by herons was an interesting by-product of tagging work which Angus undertook and which he hopes to expand upon during repeat monitoring this coming Autumn / Winter.

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