Project to bring nature back to the River Tyne

date14 March 2017

Communities along the River Tyne will have the opportunity to help migrating fish such as salmon and sea trout return to the headwaters of the river as part of an ambitious new project being led by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA).

Fish are highly adapted animals able to swim, leap or wriggle their way up many of Scotland’s rivers, but on the River Tyne they struggle with the number and sheer size of the obstacles blocking their journey. Obstacles include a number of disused weirs, examples of a long history of the river being altered for human benefit. The project, currently being led by SEPA, will look at options for improving the passage of migratory fish at the historic structures along the river, increasing the accessible area of the catchment. Work is being funded through the Water Environment Fund (WEF) which SEPA administrates for Scottish Government.

Charles Perfect, a restoration specialist in SEPA’s Water Environment Fund team, said:

“Even though the mills are long-gone, the ageing weirs remain as a legacy. These structures severely limit the access that sea-trout, salmon, eels and lamprey have to the headwaters, where they would naturally lay their eggs, or feed and grow. These structures also limit the potential of the river to transport sediment and generate natural aquatic habitat that benefits all life in the river.”

After spending a year or more at sea, salmon and sea trout would normally return to the headwaters of a catchment to lay their eggs. However, SEPA figures estimate that approximately 12% of the good salmon and trout habitat in Scotland is currently inaccessible due to man-made structures. As much as 90% of the habitat in the River Tyne and its tributaries is often inaccessible.

Dr Chris Thomas, president of East Lothian Angling Association, said:

"Migratory fish, including eels and lamprey as well as salmon and sea-trout, are essential elements of the biodiversity of the River Tyne, as in all Scottish rivers. For rivers to be able properly to support these and other aquatic wildlife, impediments, such as the barriers on the River Tyne, need to be effectively mitigated to permit natural river function. Consequently, the Tyne barriers project led by SEPA is a very welcome development, even if only the first steps in this process. The Association is pressing for innovative recommendations that will result in environmentally-sustainable solutions for the long term."

Charles further explained:

“The Water Environment Fund supports projects that improve the health of Scotland’s rivers, bringing benefits for people and the environment. As such it’s really important that the local community takes the opportunity to get involved with the plans. Keep an eye out in local news sources and on notice boards for further information about the project or search for the hashtags #lifeonthetyne and #eastlothiantyne for updates.”

Ends

 

Notes to editors

Scotland’s River Tyne flows east through East Lothian including the market towns of Haddington and East Linton, and into the sea to the north of Dunbar.

Facts and figures about the catchment:

  • Catchment area - Approx. 315 square kilometres    
  • Approximate stream length – 150 kilometres
  • Major tributaries - Tyne Water, Birns Water, Humbie Water

More information of the Water Environment Fund is available at www.sepa.org.uk/environment/water/water-environment-fund