This page contains a Flash digital edition of a book. Drought, Storage & Irrigation Saving the fish

Fish rescued as levels drop in the River Lathkill

In what is becoming a regular news piece, in early April,the Environment Agency fisheries teams, once again had to rescue stranded fish, caught out by the receding water levels. This time it was the River Lathkill in Derbyshire on Friday last week, as river levels started to recede four months earlier than usual.

A 3km stretch of the River Lathkill regularly dries up in the summer, but with last year being the driest in Midlands for over 90 years and two drier than average winters, the river has dried up much earlier than usual.

The fish are caught using electric fishing equipment to lightly stun the fish, which can then be caught in a hand net and put into a tank of water with oxygen before being relocated to an area downstream that flows all year.

Technical Officer for the Environment Agency, Alex Lumsdon, says “Generally this length of the river dries up between June and August and the water returns in October, but last year the flow didn’t return until mid December. Due to the river remaining dry until very late on last year, it appears that the Brown Trout have not migrated back upstream to spawn in the upper reaches of the River Lathkill as they usually would.” “We are concerned that the continuing dry weather may affect more wildlife, including fish and plant life in and around rivers and lakes. This is due to the reduced river flows and lower water levels in lakes and ponds. We are monitoring the situation closely and, like today, will act quickly to alleviate such problems if they occur.”

The Environment Agency decided to remove fish from the Maxey Cut, which is located between

Peterborough and Market Deeping, before the ongoing drought caused water levels to drop further.

Fish were removed from the 9 km cut – which was created as a flood relief channel for the River Welland - in an operation which took were then released into the Welland.

Fish removed from the Maxey Cut

Water will be diverted from the Maxey Cut by opening sluice gates at Tallington into the Welland millstreams. This will allow the whole of the water flow to pass through Market Deeping and Deeping St James to help maintain the River Welland and its habitat. Flows through the towns will still be lower than normal, however, due to the low rainfall over the past year.

Flows will return to the Maxey Cut once the drought is over and flows in the River Welland return to normal. Fish will then re-colonise the Maxey Cut naturally.

Clearing the way for fish in the River Ecclesbourne

Barriers preventing fish migration will be removed at Duffield, Derbyshire this week, as the Environment Agency completes the restoration of 175 metres of original river channel.

Low water levels, old weir structures and silt build up had contributed to the river channel running dry, stopping fish from migrating upstream to spawn. The fish were unable to use the alternative, newer section of channel, due to a weir, that prevented them from passing.

The Environment Agency has been working to restore flow to the original channel, allowing fish to pass upstream, whilst also enhancing wildlife at the site.

Environment Agency Fisheries Officer, Alex Lumsdon said:

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“The newly restored channel will provide excellent habitat for fish, in particular brown trout and grayling, which previously wouldn't have been able to migrate upstream. We have also planted a mixture of flowering aquatic plants and created a wildflower meadow to improve wildlife at the site. “Together with our partners, we are striving to deliver the Government's ambitious plan for improving the environment and this project is just part of the work taking place in the Ecclesbourne river catchment to increase fish populations.”

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The Environment Agency will return to monitor the site in the summer and evaluate the success of the project. Ecclesbourne is just one of ten water catchments in England to be selected for a government pilot scheme designed to improve our rivers and waterways. As part of the pilot, the Environment Agency are working with local organisations and groups to improve the wildlife habitat right across the Ecclesbourne river catchment area.

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