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Shad Fishing in the Severn

For anyone with an interest in the environment sometimes the news can seem like a brutal place that is best avoided. In recent weeks, we have faced reports that the world’s wildlife has fallen by 58% since 1970 and protests over the Dakota Access Pipeline have dominated headlines across the world.
But every now and again, something happens in the world that pulls the corners of your mouth upwards and forces out a small smile. The latest hope-bringing report is all about fish.
“Fabulous, you say. Ever since Salmon Fishing in the Yemen I’ve been hooked on any fishy developments.”

Shad Fishing in the Severn

Shoal of Shad, image courtesy of the Severn Rivers Trust

Although not the most exciting topic of conversation, we should all be cheering at the news that a scheme to re-open the River Severn and its major tributary to fish species has just received approval for £19.4 million of funding. This is the largest project of its kind that will be undertaken within Europe, so it is something to sit up in your seat and lend an ear to.  The scheme will make use of state-of-the-art fish passes that allow access past river blockages and thus opening 150 miles of river to fish and creating crucial entry to spawning grounds. Species that will benefit from this re-opening include the Twait and Allis Shad - once favoured in the court of Henry VIII, no doubt a source of excitement for any history buffs - and the endangered salmon and the European eel. Many of these fish vanished from the river following the installation of weirs during the Industrial Age of the 1800s. Weirs are barriers designed to alter the flow of rivers with the aim of preventing flooding and making rivers navigable, sadly they also had an adverse effect on the local fish populations, and in turn local communities. You can find out more on the Severn Rivers Trust website.

Tony Bostock, chief executive officer of the Severn Rivers Trust, said: “This exciting project meets the aims of the Severn Rivers Trust and our partners in protecting and enhancing the Severn catchment. It will deliver multiple benefits to fisheries interests, anglers and a great many local communities along the Severn and Teme. The state-of-the-art fish passes will truly unlock the UK’s longest river and together with proposed habitat improvements provide greater resilience to climate change and other pressures in the future.”

The primary cause for the reduction in fish populations are overfishing, pollution and habitat destruction, and in an age of ominous headlines, therefore, since humans have been the primary cause in declining populations, it only makes sense that we forge the solution. This project will affect more than just the fish population within the river. Local communities, dependent on the river, will economically benefit from both recreational and commercial fishing, and tourism will benefit further from the enhancement of biodiversity in the river.
All in all, the project is a long awaited step in the right direction towards the restoration of an ancient river to its position as a flourishing home to a diverse aquatic population.

Emily Atkins

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