Saga of the Tees Barrage takes a turn for the better
This is an important story from our sister site by the Angling Trust and at last offers hope for those who would like to see the River Tees follow sister river the Tyne back to greater salmon abundance.
After many years of negotiations by the Angling Trust, it seems that the management regime at the Tees Barrage may be starting to allow significant numbers of salmon to leave the estuary and move up river to spawn.
At two open days last week, local anglers and Mark Owen from the Angling Trust were shown the latest amendments to the fish passage arrangements as part of a major redevelopment at the barrage, which has included installation of a canoe slalom.
On Thursday last week, fish monitoring equipment recorded some 132 salmon passing through the fish pass in a single day. In 2010, a study found that of 72 fish electronically-tagged in the estuary, not a single one successfully negotiated the barrage to migrate up river to spawn over a period of several weeks. Up to 76% were killed by seals, which lie in wait at the foot of the small fish pass and pick off fish as they prepare to swim up the concrete channel. The remainder either disappeared back out to sea or were untraceable.
The Angling Trust has been pressing for action for the past four years and before that the Anglers’ Conservation Association (now Fish Legal and the legal arm of the Angling Trust), had to threaten the Environment Agency and British Waterways with legal action and organised a petition of nearly 1,000 anglers to get these statutory agencies to do something about the situation. It now seems as if this pressure may have paid off, following completion of the multi-million pound project to construct the new canoe slalom and improve fish passage, but this will only be confirmed once the results of studies over the next year are available.
The fish pass would work even more successfully if Gate One, which is nearest to the fish pass, could be restored to working order. This would increase the flow of water near to the fish pass and could attract fish more rapidly into the fish pass, which would give them more of a chance to evade the seals. This work is expected to be completed in the next four weeks, although this will be well into the autumn run of salmon, and should have been done several months ago.
The Tees has the potential to be a first class salmon river if stocks are allowed to recover, which would bring jobs and investment to Teesside and would finally improve salmon fishing for the many angling clubs on the river. For years, the Environment Agency and British Waterways (now the Canal and River Trust) have failed to find a solution to get salmon to get past the barrage.
George Coulson, of the Tees Fisheries Action Committee, said: “British Waterways have failed to consult with anglers throughout this process, but it seems as if the pressure we have all put on them is finally showing signs of promise.”
Mark Lloyd, Chief Executive of the Angling Trust and Fish Legal said: “At long last it seems that all the legal letters, meetings, petitions and press releases may have worked and that fish are starting to get upstream to spawn. We will be very interested to see how the autumn run of fish develops, whether catches pick up in the next few years and what the results of the survey work will be. Meaningful salmon angling, and all the economic benefits it offers, could be back to the Tees Valley in the near future.”