Rather than wait for our malfunctioning  back pack to be returned from Germany where it is with the manufacturer for repair, Helen and I set off lugging bankside equipment on one of the hottest days of the year. We tried to pick accessible sites so that we wouldn’t have to carry equipment too far but that’s sometimes easier said than done.

We decided to look at the Barlewan Catchment where in 2010, a major landowner installed a huge slurry store, funded through SRDP. This was a major improvement for the sub catchment and in 2012, fish numbers at Spring Garden on the Capenoch Burn and near Dalduff were up considerably. In 2013, we fished a site between the two sites surveyed in 2012 and were slightly disappointed by the lack of salmon fry and couldn’t really explain this. It was the only site within the catchment that gave concern so we decided to visit the area again in 2104 to check progress.

Immediately behind the farm where the slurry store was erected. we have a site and headed there before lunch to complete a survey. On arrival it was obvious that there was a serious problem with slurry entering the burn. This wasn’t a one off incident, but rather an going situation that had been for some time.

The sight that faced us on arrival at our site. Apart from a hose that is taped up, evidence of slurry spilling over the top of the tank and a shin deep pool of slurry with a steady flow of liquid entering the burn, there wan't much wrong with the location.

The sight that faced us on arrival at our site. Apart from a hose that is taped up, evidence of slurry spilling over the top of the tank and a shin deep pool of slurry with a steady flow of liquid entering the burn, there wan’t much wrong with the location.

Helen's face says it all. The burn is just out of the photo on the right.

Helen’s face says it all. The burn is just out of the photo on the right.

I remember our previous visits here and the new tank was to supposed  to relieve this very pressure and problem. Given the conditions at the site, I decided to take photos and not to attempt to fish the site today but rather speak to the landowner instead, then concentrate on other sites. I gave the landowner excellent SEPA booklets and information on the rules concerning watercourses. I also suggested that it may be advisable to get a machine onto a clean up this afternoon as I would be speaking to both SEPA and SGRIPID in the morning requesting they visit. It’s not our job to regulate farm practices but when we see serious breeches of the rules that impact on water quality and fish, we have no option but to as for assistance from those who can. It gives me no pleasure to ask SEPA to attend this farm again (they attended following a previous request from ART in 2010). I informed the landowner that I intend to return to complete a survey in about 1 month.

We headed upstream to Capenoch Burn, one of the sources to the Barlewan. In 2012, we found a 40x increase in salmon numbers following improvements downstream. I believe that salmon will be reluctant to enter and run a burn heavily polluted which explains why following the erection of the slurry store downstream, things had improved not just here but along it’s length. The fence that was erected sometime around 2011 was doing it’s job nicely and the water margins were excellent and much improved. Just compare the two photos below.

Spring garden in 2012.

Spring garden in 2012.

The same site in 2014 with great marginal and draped vegetation providing fish cover. Enrichment appeared to be reduced at this site.

The same site in 2014 with great marginal and draped vegetation providing fish cover. Enrichment appeared to be reduced at this site.

Sadly, the fish population was poor and no salmon fry were found and just a single parr. Three trout were recorded. What a decline in 2 short seasons.

One salmon parr and the three trout cauch today at the site. Whilst the trout are consistent with previous years, the salmon numbers have dropped dramatically once again.

One salmon parr and the three trout caught today at the site. Whilst the trout are consistent with previous years, the salmon numbers have dropped dramatically once again.

We headed to the lower Barlewan to a site at Dalcur. The 2012 results from this site were excellent and approximately 3X better than in 2010 and 2008.  So what of today? Were we disappointed? Well yes we were. The total number of salmon fry was just 11 and parr totalled 9. These are the worst results since those from 2005 and 2006.

Can we say exact why the results are so poor?…..well perhaps it is linked to the slurry upstream but it is also probably as a result of the huge amount of siltation that affected the Water of Girvan last year. 2013 saw repeated occurrences of pollution affecting the Girvan that took some time to trace and rectify. The source of last years pollution was upstream on another burn, where a farm had had recurring problems with land-slippage following excavations for a new barn.

Helen trying to keep a hold of a large eel caught at Dalcur.

Helen trying to keep a hold of a large eel caught at Dalcur. She’s obviously enjoying herself. Sadly Helen has only one more week with the Trust before she heads off to take up a post with Marine Scotland Science at Montrose.

We will have a further look upstream next week to see how our other sites within the sub catchment compare. Lets hope the main stem sites are unaffected once we survey them once the back pack is returned.

 

 

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