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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
– 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 https://rfft.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapTour/?appid=0c13680b0c3e4a938b55173e0bd85155
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.