A weir'd way to travel

World Fish Migration Day is a biennial event and this year falls upon the 21st April. If you have not heard of it, it’s a global-local event to create awareness of the importance of open rivers and migratory fish. Check out some of the events that are going on around the world - there may be something near to you:

https://www.worldfishmigrationday.com/

Of course, reinstating connectivity on rivers is a day-to-day challenge for the majority of the WTT Conservation Officers. Paul Gaskell has recently blogged about why we might want to; some of the reasons are fairly hard to ‘see’, even if you spend a considerable amount of your time on or by the water:

http://www.wildtrout.org/blog/why-presume-remove-weirs-river-dove-case-study

Aire Rivers Trust is thinking along the same lines. In a partnership with the Environment Agency, they have just secured significant funds from the Heritage Lottery for DNAire (Developing the Natural Aire), a project which aims ‘to return salmon to Skipton’. And sea trout, of course...and all the other river resident species which need unrestricted access to flourish!

So, where am I going with all of this?

To tie in with World Fish Migration Day, I'm planning a local event on the Aire. I am teaming up with WTT colleague, Tim Jacklin, and we will make our way for over 50km along the river, as a migratory fish would, through the four weirs from Gargrave to Leeds that will be made passable under DNAire. We'll be migrating downstream. Yes, it'll make our lives (slightly) easier, but we think this is important because the issues associated with downstream migration past weirs receive comparatively little press.

We will use a sit-on-top double kayak to allow us to get as close to a fish eye view as possible, with a time-lapse camera on the prow to record the journey. Such a mode of transport will also allow us to view various parts of the river that would not be accessible normally. We will record habitat quality and any detrimental issues which will provide useful information for future Aire RT / Wild Trout Trust / EA project ideas and funding applications to improve the river further.

We appreciate that there are certain tensions between angling and canoeing interests. However, I don’t want the type of vessel we are using to be a focus. The aim is to raise awareness and to do good for fishery and wider ecology interests as a specific, one-off event, sanctioned by all the appropriate authorities and stakeholders. We are hoping to drum up local support at various key points, especially the weirs themselves (Armley Mills, Kirkstall Abbey, Newlay and Salts Mill) and possibly Rodley Nature Reserve where there is already a high-profile fish pass.

OK, so we're doing the hard bit. Over to you to do something too.

Perhaps with your help, we can raise some funding as well to progress further smaller scale but still important barrier removals on rivers and stream all over the UK? Here at WTT we have a ‘Dambusters Pot’! Support us on this aire-brained adventure….we’ll need it! Buy us a virtual round and we promise to do good with it:

https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/jonnygrey1

And follow our progress on the 21st and 22nd April via Twitter - @ProfJGrey

I've made a timetable of the journey available here, if you are local and want to come and support us

Cheers, Jonny (& Tim)