Young salmon have been found in the River Derwent at Shotley Bridge in Consett for the first time in 300 years.
The 33 juvenile salmon caught during recent routine sampling by the Environment Agency are the first evidence of salmon spawning this far upstream since a number of large weirs were built to power industry in the region.
Around £750,000 has been invested over the past decade to build fish passes at four of these weirs to allow fish to reach upstream spawning grounds of the Derwent – which is an important tributary of the River Tyne.
The latest, built a year ago at Lintzford in a partnership project between the Environment Agency, Tyne Rivers Trust and Esh Group, was immediately successful, with adult fish seen using it within hours of its completion.
As well as juveniles caught during sampling upstream at Shotley Bridge, the Environment Agency also found record high numbers of juveniles at three other locations downstream.
Great news for river
The Environment Agency’s Phil Rippon, Fisheries Technical Specialist, said:
The presence of young salmon this far upstream has shown the immediate impact and success of the new fish pass. To find them so soon after the completion of the pass and during a single routine survey shows that significant numbers have spawned upstream.
It’s also likely that many more sea trout and brown trout will also have been able to access their historical spawning grounds. This is great news for the River Derwent.
We’ve worked really hard together with our partners over the years to make dramatic improvements to water quality right across the country. But there’s always more we can do and opening up our rivers to fish migration is vital for future biodiversity and river health.
Efforts have now started to build a fish pass at the only remaining large weir on the Derwent, further upstream at Shotley Grove, which may date from the 14th Century.
The Environment Agency and Tyne Rivers Trust have completed preliminary design work for a fish pass, and are now seeking funding to cover the estimated building costs of £275,000.
Douglas Phillips, Operations Director for Tyne Rivers Trust, added:
With more funding the Derwent could become a fantastic example of how intervention on a whole river system can improve spawning rates and the health of the river as a whole.