New fish passes create extra runs for salmon

SALMON and sewin entering Welsh rivers on their spring run his year will find new stretches of river open to them for spawning thanks to new fish passes constructed from sustainable Welsh oak.

The old tradition of building weirs, to support industry’s need for water and to control river levels, has often prevented fish like salmon and sewin returning to the headwaters to breed.

Chris Mills, director of Environment Agency Wales, said some fish stocks are not what they were, so every stretch of suitable headwater was needed, and fish passes on our rivers is one answer.

But he said they could be very expensive to build – often well in excess of £100,000. So Environment Agency Wales and its partners from local authorities, rivers trusts, the Welsh woodland trust Coed Cymru and the conservation education charity Siren were finding new and ways to build them.

“Where appropriate we have tried to move away from using materials such as galvanised steel and concrete and turning more to traditional materials to deliver fish pass solutions to open up our rivers to fish,” said Mr Mills.

A number of weirs and culverts have now been modified with fish passes made from Welsh oak – much cheaper than using concrete, so more can be installed for the same amount of money. The wood is a sustainable local product that can be modified on site for optimum performance and repaired or replaced if damaged – and oak can last for many years in water without decay. Sustainable green oak is sourced by the Monmouthshire County Council’s Wentwood Timber Centre, from locally grown and harvested Welsh woodland sites. The passes are designed jointly by Environment Agency Wales’ staff and Coed Cymru.

“We are always trying to do more for the environment,” said Mr Mills. “This approach has not only allowed us to open up more spawning areas, which will help increase fish stocks, we are also using a sustainable material to achieve this goal.”

Rick Longford, economic development manager with Monmouthshire County Council, said: “This is partly why we set up the Wentwood Timber Centre. We want to provide bespoke solutions to support environmentally sensitive projects in a sustainable way. The centre is proud to be working with Environment Agency Wales and Coed Cymru in this way.”

Taken from