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BRISTOL AVON RIVERS TRUST
"A Clear Future for our River"

Projects

Forgotten Landscape Project: Identifying the barriers to eel migration

BART are investigating the migratory passage of European eels in the Lower Severn Vales as part of the Forgotten Landscape Project. We are aiming to assess the success of eel passability into the project area by looking at where eel passage is detrimentally affected by the presence of barriers and establishing the priority barriers for more detailed fish passage investigations.

The Severn Estuary

The European eel (A.anguilla) has recently been classified as ‘critically endangered’ on the IUCN red list after populations have declined by 90-95% since the 1970s (IUCN, 2014). This decline is in spite of their extensive ecological and socio-economic importance, with approximately 25,000 people generating income from eel fisheries and aquaculture in Europe alone during the 1990s (Moriarty & Dekker 1997). Multiple factors have contributed to the decline including the exploitation and trade of glass, yellow and silver eels, habitat loss, pollutants, parasites, disease and predation. Once in freshwater, hydraulic schemes constitute a physical barrier to free upstream and lateral migration and, unless alterations for passage are considered, limit the areas where eels are present, as well as their densities.

European eels have a fascinating life history that sees them migrate from the Sargasso Sea near Bermuda to European freshwaters and back again. They begin their lives on the far side of the Atlantic as eggs and drift towards Europe with the Gulf Stream, hatching into leaf-shaped larvae as they travel. When they arrive in Europe they transform into the transparent fish known as glass eels, taking on the recognisable cylindrical shape before making their way into freshwater through estuaries and rivers. Having completed 7,000 kilometres of their migration, eels darken in colour and become known as elvers and attempt to migrate upstream where they can remain for more than 20 years. During this time the “yellow eels” will feed on invertebrates and fish until they are ready to reproduce and migrate back to the sea as silver eels to spawn. It has been noted that larger eels are more effective swimmers and better suited to traversing barriers such as weirs and dams in both directions so their ability to find food and suitable habitat on UK rivers is crucial for their spawning success.

It is important to recognise the physical barriers to eel passage because they must be able to swim upstream to feed and grow for a significant part of their lives before they are able to make the long journey back to their spawning grounds. There are many natural and human-made structures that can prevent eels (and other fish) from migrating. These include: tidal gates, dams, weirs, barrages and sluice gates. Eels and elvers are robust creatures and are able to travel along damp surfaces to reach a water course, however the barriers are often too steep, the water too fast flowing or surface too smooth for them to negotiate. This initial research will identify the presence of these barriers and establish the priority barriers for more detailed fish passage investigations and the available options to enable more successful eel migration (downstream and upstream) in the Severn Vale.

Tidal gate: an immediate barrier to eel migration

Bristol Avon Waterblitz 2019

Bristol Avon Rivers Trust are excited to announce the 2019 Bristol Avon WaterBlitz; a yearly campaign to collect as many water quality samples as possible in a week from across the Bristol Avon Catchment, between Saturday 1st June – Friday 7th June.

Join hundreds of people in using the free and simple to use water testing kit to sample your chosen river or stream in the Bristol Avon catchment (Bristol, Bath, South Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and North East Somerset).

To register and take part, please follow the link below to sign up and you will then receive a free water quality sampling pack in the post. Sampling kits are limited so please register by Friday 24th May to ensure you can participate:

https://tinyurl.com/waterblitz

Thanks to Bristol Water and the Avon Frome Partnership for supporting this year’s Waterblitz!

River Chew Fisheries Improvement Strategy

During 2019, BART will be delivering a River Chew Fisheries Improvement Strategy to develop improvement plans which could be made to the river as a fishery. The work will build on the recent Environment Agency fisheries reports highlighting the need for fisheries improvements and will be designed to help scope improvements which may be made from potential future funding.

The project will work with the Environment Agency Fisheries Team, angling clubs, landowners and partners throughout the length of the Chew and its tributaries.

Relationships made during this strand of the wider Chew catchment project will contribute to building a foundation for future interventions.

This project has been made possible via funding from the Bristol Avon Catchment Partnership and the Environment Agency. BART are incredibly thankful for their support to the project.

For further project information please contact simon@bristolavonriverstrust.org

Chew Catchment Project

We are excited to announce that we are leading the development of a new collaborative Chew Catchment Project designed to bring together local community groups in a mutual mission to protect the River Chew and its tributaries for years to come. In response to the spatial complexities of the catchment, we will adopt a “whole catchment” strategy to deal with the many different challenges.

During the summer of 2019, we will be providing riverfly training so that local residents can monitor the ecology of the river and explore how it develops. The data will then be used by Bristol Water and the Environment Agency to measure the success of the scheme.

We will also be delivering a suite of smaller projects throughout the catchment during 2019/20 – watch this space for details.

To date, project partners include Bristol Water, Bristol Avon Catchment Partnership, Environment Agency and Mendip Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Further details of the initiatives delivered to date can be found on project partner Bristol Water’s website:

https://www.bristolwater.co.uk/river-chew-extension-creates-a-new-home-for-wildlife/

Caring for the Cam

BART have gratefully received funding from players of People’s Postcode Lottery for improvement works along the Cam Brook at Midford. BART will be delivering a suit of work to build upon the 2018/19 Environment Agency funded project. The Postcode Local Trust is a grant-giving charity funded entirely by players of People’s Postcode Lottery.

The Caring for the Cam Project will promote community ownership of the Cam Brook near Bath & educate local people how to protect the river into the future. It will result in a river that has better habitat & water quality for both wildlife & people.

The project will deliver riparian fencing to prevent bank poaching, installation of a drinking trough away from the waterbody, tree planting to improve habitat refuge and bank integrity, a community river dipping and riverfly event and local talks to communicate how people can help protect their local river into the future.

Please follow BART website and social media pages for project updates.

To find out more about the project, please contact simon@bristolavonriverstrust.org