I arranged to meet the Fish Health Inspector at the Girvan today and then go on to the Stinchar. As he was coming from Aberdeen, we attempted to catch 5 dying fish for him to sample to determine whether or not these fish mortalities were as a result of natural stress brought on by the recent high temperatures and low water in both rivers (oxygen and/or temperature stress).
We headed to Cairnhill and then the Enoch areas and managed 3 dying salmonids which we put in a keep net to keep them alive until he arrived. There were many more dead trout in the river than when I’d last attended on Saturday. This was looking very similar to the problems I reported from the Stinchar and although there were a lot of fish affected, this time it appeared to be more adult trout and sea trout very with few parr. The Stinchar problem appeared to be mainly parr with a few sea trout and adult salmon affected.
We left the Girvan around 11.45am hoping our three samples would survive until after lunch. On arrival at Colmonell on the Stinchar, it was immediately obvious that there were few dead fish to be seen and nothing dying. (For effective histology, samples can really only be taken within an hour of mortality). We had again checked upstream on the Wee Stinchar and at Hallowchapel and found no signs of any fish affected. From Colmonell bridge we watched a heron land, wade half way across the river until it’s belly was touching the surface and lift a dead fish from the bottom. there were herons everywhere in the lower river and they have cleaned up many of the fish that died over the weekend and last week.
We moved further downstream but again found few fish. There were a few whitling still dead in the river but it was mainly salmon parr we encountered. As stated previously, if the entire lower river downstream of Garnaburn was affected, there could easily be as many as 5 – 6000 fish dead (based on rough estimates of numbers counted near Colmonell).
As the Stinchar incident appeared to be over (presumably yesterdays rain has helped), we headed back to the Girvan just in time to meet the Fish Heath Inspector arriving. Without delay we went straight to Enoch where we had left 3 fish in a keep net dying. They were dead by the time we recovered them from the water but only recently. We left the FH Inspector to carry on with the autopsies and went looking for more dying fish.
In a short time we had several more including a salmon of around 10 — 12 lbs. Colin, the Bargany keeper brought along another dying trout in a bucket. There should be plenty of samples for lab analysis and will have to wait up to 2 weeks for the results.
We left Enoch and walked down the Penwhapple Burn where there were about 20 dying trout in the bottom two pools. There was no sign of fish dying further upstream. We can only presume that these fish had taken refuge in the burn as water temperatures were cooler. We successfully removed a further 5 or 6 trout from this location for analysis.
The Trust are very grateful to Dan who came from Aberdeen this morning to assess the situation and take samples. He is heading to the Clyde in the morning where they too are experiencing fish mortalities. SEPA have been out taking water samples from both affected Ayrshire rivers today and we await the results. There really is nothing more that we can do other than hope that there are no infectious diseases afoot in our waters and that the heavens opens soon to flush out both systems. The Girvan Board requested an artificial freshet today so it should soon be reaching the affected lower reaches.
I would recommend as a safety precaution, that no one eats fish from these rivers or in fact goes fishing until water temperatures drop and these incidents are past. This may be unpopular but until the cause of the mortalities is determined, any additional pressure on the fish may be disastrous and without knowing what has cause the problems, we can’t say whether fish are safe to eat or not.