As part of the Integrated Catchment Delivery Events Programme, last week I attended a catchment delivery and partnership event organised by the Institute of Fisheries Management, Environment Agency, the Catchment Based Approach and CIWEM. The one day event was held at Loughborough University, bringing together more than 60 people from a range of organisations – academia, government organisations, rivers trusts, consultancies, contractors and local community groups. A number of presentations were given, focusing on connectivity, both physically and socially! Martyn Lucas from Durham University started the session with an engaging session on ecological connectivity, barrier removal and bypasses, and how these barriers impact the hydrological, morphological, biological and water chemical aspects of a river system, in turn impacting life stages of fish. Martyn also stressed the importance of lateral and longitudinal reconnection for all migratory species and not just salmon and trout.
Following this presentation Richard Harrison from the Canal and Rivers Trust demonstrated their work on the Unlocking the Severn Project, aiming to improve migration. Richard mentioned how the project involved perfect partnership working, with partners working together to make the most of their skills and expertise, collaborating on design and construction – the key issue being good communication. This project involved construction works on 6 weirs, unlocking 253km of habitat. One point I personally picked up on was the installation of a fish viewing gallery in Worcester, where a chamber is installed on the side of the fish pass for both monitoring and local amenity. This will hopefully improve citizen science, community engagement and active participation, raising awareness of fish migration issues.
Following discussion and a quick tea break to network with others, Clare Rodgers from Royal HaskoningDHV, one of the events’ sponsors for the day, presented on the weir removal work at Creamery Weir in Scotland. The project went ahead with the cooperation of the land owner, although not without complications! There was only a short time period for the work to be carried out due to the nature of the site being a wooded area with nesting birds. Clare stressed a strength of this project, similar to Richard’s presentation, as the cooperation between partners, such as the fisheries experts and geomorphologists both being involved in designing the work for the contractor. The project was unfortunately hit by a substantial down pour of rain before the works went ahead, complicating the design plans. However, the works still took place, by adapting the plan slightly! Another point Clare stressed was this ability to adapt to conditions, and work iteratively, which can help a project succeed.
From one case study to another, Jonathan Bolland from the Hull International Fisheries Institute presented work on evaluating fish passes. Jonathan stressed how 120 passes have been installed in the last 5 years, costing £23m, but less than 5% of these are monitored! It is important to consider each new site separately and not assume what worked somewhere else will work at a new site with different conditions, dimensions, characteristics and composition. Jonathon showed research on the number of fish managing to navigate a fish pass installed on a weir structure. Pathways of swimming fish were monitored, and showed the efforts fish went to in order to move upstream. Although a number of fish managed to move upstream in a single flowpath, others were much more complex. Jonathon explained how some fish can enter a pass and not exit at the other end, and how others may approach a pass and never enter it, leaving them to move back downstream, impacting on migration, spawning and life stages. He compared this number of fish moving upstream, to the Grand National horse racing, where only 2 horses managed to finish a race! If this was to happen with fish migration, populations would not survive and more works would rapidly have to be carried out to alleviate the problem!
Before lunch, Steve Lawrie from Environment Agency opened the workshop sessions, where the group split into 4 groups to discuss and try and come up with some answers to a few questions:
- How do we effectively integrate fish pass objectives and demonstrate wider benefits to people when developing common partnership goals?
- How do we best engage with the private sector to attain buy in/financial support when delivering fish passage projects?
- What are the best and most effective strategies to engage the public, raise awareness and gain effective support for delivering large catchment scale projects that command high financial investment?
The groups went away to discuss and came back together to share ideas. The groups had thought of similar ideas, including:
- Engaging stakeholders; Incorporating stakeholders into the design of the project; Working with schools; Understanding the challenges, and adapting schemes to target audiences; Understanding the benefits such as NFM, Flood risk reduction, enhancing other environmental features, heritage, Natural Capital benefits such as improved habitats; Live feeds on social media; Drop in sessions
- Environmental policy; Catchment Coordinators to access Business in the Community; Local businesses involved to disseminate information; Companies to sponsor a project; Timing strategy for approaching organisations; Involve local stakeholders from the initiation of a project
- Social media; Visually engaging tools – physical models; Local groups – angling groups; Having a memorable Project name for stakeholders to refer to; Citizen science and education; Demonstrate past successes; Speaking to locally interested people – seeing what they want and what they care about, rather than telling them what they should care about
After lunch the group came back together for the afternoon session and final presentations. Dominic Martyn from Environment Agency demonstrated the work which took place on Arborfield weirs, where wet woodland and a nature-like bypass channel was installed. Dom stressed the use of SMART objectives in order to quantify river restoration and measure success. Finally, Kye Jerrom from Environment Agency closed the session with his presentation on the Wissey siphon fish pass. This channel was failing Environment Agency’s objectives for fish passage, so the use of siphon technology was initiated to move water from high to low using a vaccum. This unique technology can be used in channels with varying head levels and low flows and it is suitable for many different species to use including eels.
All presentations sparked interest from the group and questions and ideas raised a strong discussion. One of the top tips from the session was ensuring early contractor involvement, and having the right advisors onsite to support and guide the project at any stage.
Thank you to all the presenters and partners for running this successful event, particular Dominic Martyn and Karen Twine for organising the session.
Don’t forget World Fish Migration Day on April 21st!