Thanks to work by Tyne Rivers Trust, fish will soon be able to access parts of the River Derwent that they haven’t been able to reach since the industrial revolution.
The construction of a fish pass at Shotley Bridge will enable a range of species such as lamprey, eels, grayling, brown trout, sea trout and salmon to move up and down the river for the first time since the weir was built 300 years ago to power a mill.
The project, managed by Tyne Rivers Trust in partnership with the Environment Agency, consists of six rock pools that provide a route for fish to gradually move up or down beyond the 2.5m weir. The structure constitutes the final piece of the ‘fish pass jigsaw’ on the River Derwent, enabling fish to move freely from the River Tyne to the reservoir. It follows on from similar work at Derwenthaugh and Lintzford which have already proved a success with a greater diversity and density of fish species now found upstream of those sites.
Jack Bloomer, Project Manager at Tyne Rivers Trust says: “We want the river to thrive and the realisation of this project will help the Derwent to do this. Every year, fish move through our river systems to colonise new areas, exploit different resources and spawn but obstructions like the two and a half metre high weir at Shotley Grove make it impossible for this to happen.
“The construction of fish passes downstream at Derwenthaugh and Lintzford, meant that Shotley Grove Weir was the last remaining major obstruction to fish on the River Derwent until the reservoir.
“This work ensures that all fish populations within the River Derwent will be connected to one another, increasing the gene pool. It will also give access to Horsleyhope Burn and Burnhope Burn, which are two major tributaries upstream of the weir, providing even greater benefits. In time, this will improve the density and diversity of fish populations in the River Derwent and the Tyne system as a whole.”
The project was led by Tyne Rivers Trust in partnership with Durham County Council and was funded by the Environment Agency and the Marine Management Organisation through the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund.
Niall Cook, Fisheries Technical Officer at the Environment Agency, said: “The River Derwent going from an industrialised river system to a haven for fish and other wildlife to flourish is a real success story. Just last year our surveys revealed young salmon as far upstream as Shotley Bridge for the first time in 300 years. Following work by the Environment Agency and its partner organisations to tackle obstructions downstream, this new fish pass is the final link in the chain to allow free passage for a range of fish species and help create a thriving river system for the community to enjoy.”
Cllr Ossie Johnson, the council’s Cabinet member for tourism, culture, leisure and rural issues, says: “This is a fantastic example of how organisations can work together to secure funding and delivery of projects. This was the last remaining barrier on the River Derwent below Derwent Reservoir and construction of the pass will allow salmon and sea trout to migrate up river to lay their eggs. It is a significant investment in the riverine habitat of the County and will enhance ecology and improve angling for local clubs.”