Nith District Salmon Fishery Board
board@river-nith.com
River Nith
Nith Catchment Fishery Trust
trust@river-nith.com
Nith District Salmon Fishery Board
board@river-nith.com
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Conservation

Atlantic salmon and sea trout home thousands of miles back to thier natal rivers so that they can reproduce. It is vital that the rivers that they return to are in good condition and contain suitable habitat in which to spawn and for the resulting juveniles to develop in. In order to provide this and ensure high numbers of salmonids make it to smolt, the NDSFB strive to improve habitats throughout the Nith catchment.

Habitat requirements

Adults
Deep pools in which to rest
Obstacle free passage to their spawning grounds
Gravel beds in which to create redds (nests for the eggs)

Fry and parr
Fast moving, well oxygenated water
Pebbles and cobbles to hide behind
Good source of food (aquatic and terrestrial iinvertabrates)
Habitat Schemes

NDSFB has been involved in habitat enhancement initiatives for many years. Following on from an initial catchment wide juvenile salmonid survey conducted in 1991 by Dr Alistair Stephen, habitat degradation was identified as a problem in some areas of the Nith catchment. Schemes to upgrade the habitat for juvenile salmonids were developed. These included, fencing off and planting of riparian zones and the removal of obstructions to the free passage of spawner’s. It is worthwhile emphasising the benefits of each of these initiatives:

  • Fencing off and planting of river banks promotes the growth of riparian vegetation and denies grazing by agricultural stock.
  • River banks are subsequently stabilised and the vegetation provides draped cover for fish to hide under.
  • Terrestrial invertebrates thrive on bankside vegetation and these invertebrates form part of the diet for juvenile salmonids and other species of fish.
  • Vegetation falling into the river from riparian plants forms detritus which also encourages invertebrates.

Afton Habitat Scheme

The Afton Water was identified in the early 90’s as producing limited numbers of juvenile salmonids. One of the contributing factors to decrease fish populations was the presence of sub-otimal riparian habitat in the upper Afton. In stream cover was both diverse and of a quality to sustain both fry and parr stages of salmonid development but the river banks were heavily grazed by agricultural stock. A habitat scheme was planned amd implemented in 1996 and this involved the erection of riparian fencing and planting of suitable native riparian species of trees. The Board are encouraged by the success of this scheme with improved habitats being created by draped vegetation at the waters edge. Comparative electrofishing surveys have proven that the habitat enhancement scheme on the Afton has resulted in increased numbers of juvenile salmonids in this watercourse.

Afton habitat comparison

Wanloch Habitat Scheme

In 2008 the NDSFB completed a 2km habitat scheme on the Wanloch Water, one of the tributaries of the River NIth. Board Members Sophy Weatherall and Gordon McGregor on a tour to inspect the most recent habitat works to be completed, visited the Wanloch habitat scheme. Sea trout is the number one management priority for NDSFB currently and the Wanlock Water is considered to be one of the most favoured spawning tributaries for sea trout in the River Nith catchment. Therefore investment has been made to protect this habitat. Works included riparian fencing and tree planting in a very challenging location within our catchment. This habitat improvement scheme has been made possible by the land owner, his Grace the Duke of Buccleuch, tenant farmer Mr Brian Dickie and the skill and professionalism of Buccleuch Estates fencing team.


The Celtic Sea Trout Project

The Celtic Sea Trout Project aims to:

  • To understand and describe sea trout stocks in the Irish Sea and thereby to enhance sea trout fisheries and strengthen their contributions to quality of life, to rural economies and to national biodiversity.
  • To explore the use of sea trout life history variation as a tool to detect and understand the effects of climate change.

There are major unanswered questions in the understanding of sea trout, namely:

  • Where do they go at sea and how are their stocks structured and interlinked?
  • What is their marine ecology (feeding, growth, survival and life history variation)?
  • What environmental and other pressures are they exposed to?
  • How do their life histories (and thus fishery quality) respond to environmental variation?

Sea trout fisheries in parts of Western Britain, including the Irish Sea, are suffering decline; but the pattern is mixed and in most cases the causes of change and thus the solutions are poorly understood. So we need answers to the question outlined above.

The CSTP intends to provide this missing knowledge and to translate it into fishery and conservation benefits for countries bordering the Irish Sea.

For more information please visit the Celtic Sea Trout Project website.

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