GFT data shows that degraded habitats in Galloway’s rivers and burns are limiting the numbers and health of juvenile salmon and smolts. This needs to be addressed if local salmon stocks are going to survive in the long term. Organisations need to work together in partnership to identify opportunities for habitat enhancement at a catchment scale, particularly within wider work programmes.
There are good opportunities and willingness for significant partnership working to be undertaken. This is the main focus of the project.
Habitat utilised by salmon have been degraded by human activities and need to be restored for salmon to survive long term. GFT has a good understanding of fish stocks, water quality and instream / riparian habitats in Galloway river catchments. This data highlights that degraded habitats are limiting the abundance and natural distribution of salmon, and should be addressed. Due to limited resources to restore degraded habitats, it is important that there is a robust methodology to prioritise areas for habitat restoration to deliver maximum benefits for salmon populations at a catchment scale. It is also essential organisations work in partnership, sharing advice and expertise, for habitat restoration to occur at a significant scale. This project will deliver a new approach of a catchment scale habitat enhancement programme, with clear and well explained methodology to identify and prioritise the most important areas for habitat restoration, delivered by partnership working with key stakeholders and the local community.
Therefore, the main aims of the project are to:
This two year funded project runs from early 2019 to end of 2020. This post is funded by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) and the Scottish Government.
Project update: August 2019
The Salmon Habitat Restoration Project Officer, Dr. Jess Rodger, started in February and has been working on developing a robust methodology to prioritise areas for habitat restoration works. The methodology has been developed using the Water of Fleet catchment and utilises GFT data on fish stocks, water quality and instream / riparian habitats. This work highlighted habitat restoration should take place in the upper Water of Fleet catchment, specifically Benmeal Burn, the Big Water of Fleet and Cleugh of Elgon. Detailed restoration plans are currently being written for these areas in discussion with key stakeholders. A similar process is envisioned for other local river catchments. This methodology has been developed with the advice from a steering group, which has been formed of key stakeholders for Galloway, with representatives from SEPA, Forestry and Land Scotland and Crichton Carbon Centre.
To prioritise areas for habitat restoration, the project officer has been using data which GFT already has access to, as well as, collecting more information to inform the project. A trial, water crossing survey (e.g. checking culverts and bridge aprons etc) was completed on the Water of Fleet catchment, with 105 water crossings surveyed. Each water crossing was examined to determine whether adult salmon would be able to move easily upstream and smolts move downstream. Other information, which is currently being collected includes further electrofishing surveys to determine the distribution of salmon in each of Galloway’s river catchments. Another method being explored to collect information, is the use of a drone. The drone could be used for habitat surveys, to examine areas where restoration could take place, examine conifer regeneration etc.
The Project Officer has been working alongside the Fleet Valley National Scenic Area volunteers delivering habitat restoration works in the Water of Fleet catchment. The volunteers where busy 'Balsam Bashing' in the Gatehouse area last month, which will improve riparian habitat by allowing native species to grow. Further works are planned.
The aims of this project are to improve both instream and riparian habitats for both salmonids and freshwater pearl mussels; freshwater pearl mussels are now a critically endangered species and there are very few known populations remaining in Scotland.