I came across this video clip on YouTube and couldn’t help but see the similarities of this approach to what we do in Ayrshire and other Trusts across Scotland are also delivering. We may not have resources to work on this scale individually or to produce such slick PR videos, but the ambition is the same.
Reconnecting migrating fish with their spawning habitat is exactly the strategy that we are working on in Ayrshire. At present, the Trust is in discussions with North Ayrshire Council and SEPA to improve migration on the Lugton Water that will allow salmon and trout to reach and spawn in miles of habitat from where migratory species have been excluded for years.
Similiary on the upper Irvine, we are hoping to reconnect the Hag Burn with the main river and to improve the number of fish reaching the Gower and Glen Waters. The Kilmarnock Water has seen considerable barrier removal / easement in recent years and this summer should see the last obstacle (Cheapside Street weir) improved. The Black Rocks Waterfall and Dean Ford are now passable so all looks good for the years ahead. It’s not just the Trust that’s working to achieve these goals but we certainly play our part.
The Garnock has it’s share of problems and we have requested that the Consultants developing the Flood defence scheme for Kilbirnie considers partial removal of at least one weir in the town to improve migration and reduce flood risk.
The 3 weirs on the Annick at Stewarton limit migration too and we have started the process of assessing these barriers by using the SNIFFER assessment tool. This is the starting point to understand the scale of the problems and should help to secure WEF support in future if there is adequate benefit from improvements. Decisions to fund these types of projects boil down to cost and benefits. Some barriers have greater impacts than others and removal or easement of certain structures may open up much larger areas of habit… the best value for money is important and influences the decision making process. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to secure funding or find alternative ways to deliver improvements.
On the Ayr, this summer we plan to improve passage through the B743 culvert at Muirkirk allowing salmon to reach the headwaters of the Greenock more easily. Bailiffs, volunteers and ART staff will work together with a small amount of financial support from the Board and install baffles within the culvert to ease the passage of salmon. Perhaps in future we will also be able to tackle the A76 culverts on the Glaisnock too.
The Doon has it’s problems in particularly at Loch Doon Dam where the Trust will start monitoring smolt passage downstream through the dam and by installing curtains, we hope to guide them into the ladder with increased success. This project is largely funded by Scottish Power, operators of the dam but we hope to gain further support from Forestry Commission and SEPA (who agreed to provide pH data). Every penny counts and with so few salmon reaching the upper third of the Doon catchment, I think the potential benefits are huge if we can solve the problems.
Fortunately access to most of the Girvan and Stinchar catchments is good with the main barrier at Girvan Dykes already improved by ART in 2011 with support from local companies.
Despite the difficulties securing funding we are hopeful that all these barriers will be improved for the benefit of our fish.
It makes sense when our salmon are facing increased pressures at sea to allow them the best opportunity to reach prime spawning grounds. There’s no doubt that reconnecting habitat is the simplest way to increase our stocks.