Argyll Fisheries Trust
"To promote and improve the health of aquatic ecosystems and self sustaining fish populations. To understand the biology and ecology of all freshwater fish species, including those that migrate between fresh and marine waters, their environment and factors that affect them"
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Argyll Fisheries Trust News

Monday, 20 August 2012

Working with Transerv to protect local fish near the A85

Argyll Fisheries Trust were engaged by Transerv to move local brown trout from a section of the River Lochy (Argyll) next to the A85 near Tyndrum.  A section of the river bank had collapsed leading to fears that the road may also collapse.  Transerv engaged local contractors to strengthen the bank, and to do this needed access from the river.  Argyll Fisheries Trust were contracted to remove all fish from the river before a temporary diversion was put in place to allow access to the river.

On 14th August, AFT staff removed over 100 fish from the section by electrofishing the river.  This section of the river is upstream of a 50m waterfall, therefore there are no populations of salmon or sea trout present in the river.

Argyll Fisheries Trust News

Habitat restoration in the River Awe

Further to the press release of 15th May 2012 announcing the new flow regime in the River Awe, the Argyll Fisheries Trust along with local volunteers took to the river to take advantage of the new ecology-focused flow regime to improve the chances of spawning success for salmon.  As reported, previously salmon were able to spawn in certain areas in the winter, yet their eggs were left high and dry when the river flow was reduced in the winter.  

Previous river surveys had identified an area where eggs were left exposed.  Following consultation with SEPA, Argyll Fisheries Trust and their merry band set to work in the river in July to open up a previously blocked channel where salmon were known to spawn at the Old Bridge of Awe.  The success of this work will only become apparant next year, however the new ecologically-driven flow regime has already opened up new possibilities to restore this river to its former glory.

Our thanks go to Robert and Fergus Campbell-Preston, Panagiotis Pliatsikas and Ewan MacLellan for helping with the work.

Argyll Fisheries Trust News

New flow regime in River Awe benefits river ecology

(RAFTS press release from 15th May 2012 )

In an unprecedented move, the pattern of water flows in Argyll’s biggest river, the Awe, which has been harnessed for hydro since the late 1950s, has been fundamentally revised with the aim of improving fish spawning opportunities and juvenile fish numbers. Previously the compensation flows and release of freshets from the Awe Barrage dam, agreed between the operator Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) and the river owners, were high in summer (for the benefit of angling) and low in winter – the exact reverse of the natural situation.

In 2010, when concerns were raised on whether the existing flow regime was ideally suited for juvenile salmon, SEPA convened a working group including representatives from SSE, wild fish interests and local proprietors to examine existing arrangements and how they might be improved. The Argyll Fisheries Trust collected evidence of spawning patterns in the Awe and correlated them with flow data. This was the basis for extensive negotiations between the interested parties, culminating in an agreement on a new flow regime to operate from late spring 2012; this involves reducing the summer flow in order to cater for extra water in the winter.

Alan Kettle-White, Senior Biologist for the Argyll Fisheries Trust, explained: “Our study concluded that the old flow regime, with reduced flows in the autumn, was likely to limit access for adult salmon and trout to the available spawning beds. Conversely if it is wet and there is considerable extra water in the river, salmon will spawn in all available areas but the resulting eggs are left high and dry once the flows revert to the low winter compensation regime. At this time of poor marine survival – which limits the number of adult salmon returning each year – it is vitally important to maximise spawning opportunities, juvenile recruitment and the number of smolts migrating to sea. We believe that the new flow regime will assist in this regard and provide a basis for restoring degraded spawning sites in the future.”

Tony Huntington, Chairman of the Awe District River Improvement Association, commented: “Whilst high summer flows are advantageous for angling, it would be wrong of us to continue with such water conditions if in effect we are taking water which is needed in the autumn and winter for spawning and juvenile fish. And in the end, without good juvenile populations migrating to sea, the numbers of returning adult salmon, on which angling depends, will not be at optimal levels. This initiative will only be successful if in the future SSE modify their spillage policy – by not holding back water and then letting down extreme floods which wash out the redds.”

Richard Fyfe, Specialist in Water Resources at SEPA, said: “Following the introduction of the Water Framework Directive SEPA now has the role of regulating how water is used by hydro-schemes and determining what flows are required to deliver ‘good ecological status or potential’. We are pleased that this new flow regime has been agreed on the basis of the best available evidence and a very positive collaborative approach by all the parties concerned.”

Dr Alastair Stephen, Senior Ecological Advisor at SSE, added: “There has been a level of recognition, indeed a consensus, that the primary consideration must be the ecology of the river rather than the angling. We hope that this initiative will be a forerunner of other co-operative approaches to similar issues on other rivers, and that this adaptive management concept will be taken on board by the regulatory arm of SEPA in the wider context of helping to deliver further improvements as required under the terms of the Water Framework Directive.”

Jamie McGrigor, Highlands & Islands MSP, who has a share in a fishing syndicate on the River Awe, said: “For ages it has crossed the mind of many of us here that it must be bad for the ecology of the River Awe if it is reduced to a trickle from October to April. At the time when the original spillage regime was agreed in about 1960 salmon, grilse and sea trout were so abundant that the main concern was over how to maximise fishing effort during the open season rather than attempting to ensure the sustainability of the stocks for the future. Now things are very different and I am glad and grateful that our tenant fishermen are willingly sacrificing some of their fishing benefits and comfort zones in an effort to secure a sustainable future for the River Awe which, as those of us who fish it will know has such an exciting history, especially of big fish which Calderwood referred to as ‘lusty fellows’. It will take several years to know if this experiment will work but it is marvellous to have achieved the cooperation and good will of SSE, SEPA, scientists and fishermen as well. It may be a blueprint for the future.”

A monitoring programme will evaluate the effectiveness of the new flow regime and allow further evidence-based changes in subsequent years.