Welcome to the River Forth Fisheries Trust Autumn Newsletter 2015
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Remit of the Trust
The aim of the River Forth Fisheries Trust is to advance the conservation of all species of freshwater fish and the habitats they live in for the benefit of everyone. The area we cover includes all the rivers  flowing into the River Forth, the Forth Estuary and the Firth of Forth as well as coastal areas within the Firth.
We also have an interest in providing education to  the public and any association, local authority, governmental agency or public body in:
the understanding of aquatic ecosystems, including their fauna, flora and economic or social impacts, and river catchment management;

the need for, and benefits of, protection, conservation, rehabilitation and improvement of aquatic environments.

Upper Teith, the River Larig upstream Inverlochlarig. A wonderful spawning area! 

Salmon 0+ and 1+ from the Keltie water (Teith Tributary)

A couple of fry form the Eas Gobhain

The Garbh Uisge just upstream Callander. Active channel with lots of woody debris : a wonderful stretch.

Craning precast units into place on Dollar weir

Sealing the base of the fish pass

The finished structure

Sylvian checking the new depth of the pass

New fish pass and eel brush at Fankerton Weir

A transformer Brook Lamprey from the Forth

Stuart and Colin (Stirling Council Fishery) helping out

An October salmon fry from the Forth. As you can see the growth rate is not huge.

The fish pass before the works

The restored fish pass

Dave of MDAA releasing a rescued fish

Another cracking sea trout caught during the rescue

Jonathan and his young public during the Almond Valley Heritage Day

Atkins's Lego city!

The only salmon found in the Linhouse Water durimg the 2015 fish survey.

The Linhouse Water is one of the healthiest tributary of the Almond, when the works on the weirs will be finished we hope that this burn will be full of salmon.

A dead salmon found at Fair a Far weir in August hopefully the last one. The recent optioneering study has found that the best solution to help migratory species to go over this barrier is a Larinier fish pass at the existing location of the current fish pass.

A team of sprayer on the Allan Catchment.

Dunruchan Farm Peatland Restoration Project

One of the weir concerned by the scoping study : Rhynds Burn Barrier. 

During the walkover, 98 dead salmon and one trout has been counted it is the largest kill recorded by the trust on the Allan.

The moribund salmon caught the 26th of September. 

Montague Bridge in Dalkeith Country Park. 

Volunteers spraying Japanese knotweed with Amy

An old patch of Japanese Knotweed already sprayed. 

Volunteers spraying Japanese knotweed with Amy


The main news on the fisheries management front is the new proposed regulation on the management of killing salmon.  The proposals for the Forth will divide the District into two areas – the Teith SAC which has been allocated grade 1 status (i.e. there is a sustainable harvestable amount of salmon and fish can be taken subject to local restrictions) and the rest which has been allocated grade 3 (i.e. there is not a sustainable harvestable number of salmon and these areas will be full catch and release).  Although there has been dialogue with Marine Scotland Science on the method of setting the conservation limits, it is unlikely that these allocations will change before the commencement of next season.  Further information can be found here - The Trust, together with the Forth District Salmon Fishery Board, are in the process of responding to the issues raised by these new proposals and it is likely that this will continue for some months to come.  There are also restrictions on netting in the Firth and the estuary.
We are also pleased to welcome another new member of staff, Amy Fergusson, our new FINNS Project Officer, following on from the successful re-funding of the FINNS programme.  Amy will be continuing the work undertaken by Jonathan in managing and raising awareness of the issue of invasive non-native species across the District.
There have been a few changes internally due to the growth of the Trust, which are reflected below.
Current staff
Catchment Manager - Alison Baker
Senior Biologist- Jo Girvan
Biologist - Sylvian Barry
Project Officer (Almond-Avon Reconnection Programme) - Jonathan Louis
Project Officer (Allan Water Improvement Project) - Lawrence Belleni
Project Officer (Trossachs Water Vole Project)- Ryan Greenwood
Project Officer (Forth Invasive Non Native Species Programme) – Amy Fergusson
Ecology/Morphology - TrexEcology (Tommy McDermott)
Trust Admin – currently vacant

Dollar Weir Fish Pass Improvement Project
(Jo Girvan)

The Trust has recently completed improvement works on an old fish pass on the weir at Dollar on the River Devon. The original structure was constructed around the 1970’s, and while partially passable under some river flows, was not very efficient at allowing fish to pass. This meant that the high quality spawning and juvenile habitat present upstream, particularly on the Dollar Burn, was not being fully utilised by reproducing salmon and sea trout. In addition, while fish were waiting below the weir for suitable flows, they were at much higher risk of poaching.
In a project funded by Scottish Water, Clackmannanshire and Stirling Environment Trust and the Devon Angling Association, the Trust planned and carried out improvements on the fish pass to increase its efficiency. Fish pass experts at Stirling University’s Centre for River EcoSystem Science were consulted to determine what improvements could feasibly be made to the fish pass within our constrained budget. A plan was then developed to increase the depth of the boxes by craning precast concrete units into place on top of each wall, and to reseal the leaky bases of each box.
The works are now complete, and a much more efficient looking fish pass is now ready for when the fish begin to run. The Trust has already collected a large amount of baseline electrofishing data and will continue to monitor the fish community for several years to quantify the expected improvement in migratory salmonid productivity.

Thanks to Murdo McKenzie Ltd for their efficient construction and to all our funders for their support!

Fankerton Interactive Salmon Project
(Jo Girvan)

The Trust are in the process of installing the first fish counter in the District at Fankerton Weir on the River Carron. The opportunity to install a fish counter arose this year as TLS Hydro were constructing a hydro scheme at the site and installing a new Alaskan fish pass and eel brush to allow fish up over the weir, possibly for the first time since the early 1800s.
The idea for a fish counter received a lot of enthusiasm and support from many community groups and no fewer than ten local funders. TLS Hydro were immensely supportive, and without their help and compliance, the project would not have been possible. It now looks likely that the fish counter will be operational within two months, and then all that remains is for us to build a new public footpath to the weir, design and install two new interpretation boards and link them to our website where a new webpage will display live data transmitted directly from the counter.

Electrofishing Programme
(Jo Girvan)

The 2015 electrofishing season was completed recently, with 146 sites surveyed. We achieved excellent coverage of most of the District, with particular focus on the Rivers Esk, Avon, Almond and Leven, where large scale projects are under way or in development. In addition, we covered a large number of sites on the Forth and Teith systems, in order to collect baseline data for monitoring the impacts of decommissioning Longannet power station in 2016.
This year, the Trust ran its own electrofishing training course in partnership with Inverness College, with much of the tutoring provided by Jo Girvan, now an SFCC trainer. Excessive rain threatened to cancel our field training day, however, an inspired last minute change of venue to the Murieston Water near Livingston saved the day.
Thanks to the students of Napier University, our volunteer biologist Honor Wright, Stirling Council Fisheries, Murray Stark of Inverness College and the Musselburgh anglers for their help.

Inveresk weir Fish Pass Repair
(Jo Girvan)

In June this year, East Lothian Council were carrying out some repairs at Inveresk Weir on the River Esk in Musselburgh. The Trust went along to meet some members of the Musselburgh District Angling Association and to have a look at the old fish pass on the weir. We know that salmon can ascend the weir, however, the fish pass had long been thought inefficient, holding fish back and making them vulnerable to poaching.
When the Council had dried the weir to carry out the works, it was immediately apparent that the fish pass was in a poor state of repair. We advised the Council what could be done to improve things, and to their credit, they added fish pass repairs to the engineering works and completed them within a few days. The fish pass is now by no means perfect, but it is much better than it was before.
Whilst on site, Sylvian noticed there were large fish trapped in an isolated pool below the dried weir. We then proceeded to spend the next two hours rescuing four large sea trout and a salmon from the pool and releasing them upstream.

The Almond/Avon Reconnection Programme
(Jonathans Louis)

It has been a busy period since the last update for the development of the Almond/Avon Reconnection Programme. To recap, the Almond/Avon Reconnection Programme (AARP) is an ambitious programme of works being developed by the Trust to carry out catchment scale improvement projects for the benefit of the Almond and Avon catchments. The development phase is being funded by SEPA Water Environment Fund and the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to build a programme to restore natural heritage within both catchments. The programme is also looking at ways to engage communities and get them interacting with their local river through training, education, events and interpretation. The Trust will submit its second round application to HLF for the delivery phase which hopefully will start mid 2016 (depending on funding) for a period of 4 years.
Almond Valley Heritage Day – during the development of the project it is important that the Trust tests some activities and events out to gauge public opinions and develop the event and activities further. One of the events that we trialled was a “meet your river” event where the Trust created an interactive stall to engage with passers-by. We tested the stall out at the Almond Valley Heritage Centre, a local heritage centre aimed at families. The children and adults all engaged with the Trust and were shown fish and invertebrates gathered from the Almond to show the families what lives in their local river. At the same time, consultants working on the Almond Barriers Project (Atkins Global) had given up their spare time to bring along their Lego city, an interactive game demonstrating what happens when cities are flooded. The children (and adults!) were engaged with the game and some even came back for more. Overall it was a highly successful day with over 300 families engaged with.
Almond Barriers – The River Almond Barriers Project is a project looking to ease passage for migratory fish on 7 barriers along the River Almond. The project has been through a number of different phases with the feasibility stage now complete. A study was carried out by Atkins Global to determine which option is the best technical solution for each structure. In total, 4 community engagement meetings were held to get local input into the project but also show case the best technical solutions for the 7 barriers. An online app has been created by the River Forth Fisheries Trust to show where each barrier is located but also to highlight the best technical solution for each barrier. This can be found here

Audience Development and Interpretation - As part of the HLF bid we are encouraged to develop and expand the number and type of people who we engage with along together with creating different ways to get people interested and involved. To help us with this we have employed specialists to help develop our audiences but also to create a range of activities and interpretation for the project. We hired two companies; Wingspan Consulting Ltd and Minerva Heritage Ltd. The two companies have helped the Trust engage in a wider audience and also helped with gathering evidence for our project. Wingspan, Minerva and the Trust held a consultation event with community councils bordering the project areas to find out what they would like out of the project. It was a highly successful event which gave us a great insight into what matters to the local communities.
Allan Improvement project
(Lawrence Belleni)

The past few months on the Allan Water have been quite a busy period involving completing the treatment of invasive non-native plant Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) in the Catchment; development of projects involving peatland restoration, woodland creation and barriers to fish passage; and a recent unfortunate fish kill.
This year was the second year in a row that almost the entire catchment from the source of the giant hogweed at Greenloaning to almost the mouth had been treated by RFFT and its volunteers. This phenomenal effort resulted in 28.5 km of river bank and 71+ man days of work going in. Special mentions in achieving this must go to local group leaders on the Allan Water; Terence O’Byrne, Bill Jack and Roy Sexton. We are definitely starting to win the war against giant hogweed in the catchment but we will require all the help we can get for the 2016 spraying season to keep up what has already been achieved. If you live local to the Allan Water and would like to help tackle giant hogweed, please drop Lawrence an e-mail on and we will get you on our mailing list for hogweed spraying in the 2016 season.
Two large projects have been developed and taken forward within the Allan Water Catchment. Working with the Allan Water Angling Improvement Association, we have submitted an application to SEPA’s Water Environment Fund for a scoping study to assess the barriers to fish passage in the catchment. The application has been submitted and we are awaiting the final verdict from SEPA. If the scoping study on the barriers gets the green light then the work will be carried out over the winter period of 2015/16. The second large project is the Dunruchan Farm Peatland Restoration Project, which is the restoration of a 54ha upland peat bog site in the catchment that has suffered from historical hill drainage. The work will be funded by SNH’s Peatland Action Fund and is about to enter the tendering phase for work soon and will be completed over the winter period of 2015/2016 also. Therefore, hopefully the diggers will be out soon for the peatland restoration project!
Unfortunately, the Corriebeagh Native Woodland Restoration Project which involved working in conjunction with a local estate and forestry contractor to hopefully achieve 45.8ha of native upland birch woodland to the uplands of the Catchment has not received landowner consent and will therefore not be progressing at this time.
A couple of smaller projects are also going on, I am currently investigating the viability of a small 1ha section of riparian woodland planting on a farm. In addition to that, I have landowner approval at the same site to try out some brash and live willow soft bank protection on a section of bank of the Allan Water that suffers from excessive erosion. This work will be carried out using volunteers on a section of river between Kinbuck and Greenloaning at some point in early Spring 2016. Therefore there are mix of large and small scale projects currently on-going in the catchment.
Unfortunately there was bad news last month on the Allan Water when there was a fish kill of around 100 fish between Ashfield and Dunblane. We captured and provided a moribund (near dead) fish to Marine Scotland for bacteriological and parasitological analysis and are awaiting the final report on their findings. It is highly likely that low rainfall and flows during this period caused fish trapped in pools to be stressed and resulted in a disease outbreak of some sort. Historically this has not been uncommon on the Allan Water, however 100 fish has been the largest kill seen for a long time.

Midlothian Esks Barrier Easement Project
(Tommy McDremott)

Beginning on the 26th of October, consultants appointed by the River Forth Fisheries Trust will be undertaking a range of surveys in the vicinity of the Montague Bridge in Dalkeith Country Park and the Newmills Road Bridge.  The purpose of these surveys is to begin design on structures that will allow native fish species, such as Atlantic salmon and eels, to once more ascend the North and South Esks for the first time in over a century, and to assist in the overall ecological recovery of the Midlothian Esks.  If you live near either of these areas, or would like further details, please contact the Trust using the details on our contact page.

Forth Invasive Non-Native Species Programme
(Amy Fergusson)

As you may know the River Forth Fisheries Trust has been working on the control of invasive non-native species within the Forth District for several years. This project has been successful in tackling the spread of invasive species through the catchments by developing a strategic approach of top-down catchment control.
The third year of the FINNS programme was successful in controlling and monitoring several catchments for Giant Hogweed, Japanese Knotweed and Himalayan Balsam. Although there was a bit of a late start due to a lack of funding, within the space of a few months the Trust - with the help of volunteers and other organisations willing to lend a hand - has achieved a great deal. Control of Giant Hogweed along the entirety of the Allan Catchment has been accomplished under the supervision of Lawrence Belleni and his many volunteers. The River Avon has also been tackled once again for Japanese knotweed thanks to the River Avon Federation (RAF) including around Linlithgow Loch and along the River Avon and its tributaries.
The entirety of the Almond and Teith catchments have also been well tackled this year for Japanese Knotweed and the River Carron was treated again from the source to Checkbar roundabout. Funding will be allocated next season to continue further downstream and will hopefully include the Bonnywater which has not yet been attempted.
Volunteers have been out helping to spray for almost the entire month of September - this was our big push before the end of the season. The Trust was very thankful for the help of these dedicated members that accompanied Amy while she was out and about throughout the district.
Now that the spraying season is over we are looking forward to the educational aspects of the project. There will be a FINNS section in the Fish in the Class project which will teach the younger minds about the importance of biodiversity and why we tackle invasive species. There will also be a few workshops to educate all ages in the ways to identify the invasive non-native species that we deal with. Keep your eyes peeled for any announcements if you wish to come along to some of the more public events!
Funding is being secured for next season and the Trust is hopeful that we will expand on our control efforts to include more catchments and bring on more dedicated volunteers. This will help towards the ongoing battle for Invasive Species control in the Forth District.
The Trossachs Water Vole Project
(Ryan Greenwood)

The Trossachs Water Vole Project teams up with Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park each summer to carry out a programme of Water Vole surveys.
In previous years the surveys have focused around Water Vole release sites in the Loch Ard Forest and on nearby areas that the voles had colonised. For 2015, it was decided that the surveys should focus on searching for Water Voles in suitable habitat further afield to try and find out where they had managed to disperse to. Possible habitat within a reasonable dispersal distance of known Water Vole colonies was identified via computer mapping over the winter and surveys planned for the season (May – September).
We are pleased to say that Water Voles were confirmed to be present in several areas where they had not previously been recorded. The map below shows known water vole colonies in green, new areas highlighted with an orange ring and one unconfirmed report with a red ring.
The voles have colonised new ground in almost every direction with some colonies several kilometres away from the original release sites. This show cases just how effective they are at dispersing and proves that their re-introduction has been an outright success. We will re-survey these newly found colonies in 2016 as well as surveying a selection of new areas.
The Water Vole surveys we do rely heavily on the time and effort of volunteers. If you think that you would like to take part in next year’s surveys then please get in touch. No previous experience is required and all training and equipment is provided.
If you are interested in volunteering or have any queries please contact Ryan Greenwood on:
07909 892460
For further information check out the TWVP web page or Facebook page
Spot an Invasive ? Report it here
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