Looking downstream on the River Cree
Looking upstream on the River Bladnoch
Felling of commercial forestry in Galloway Forest Park
Looking upstream on the River Luce
North American Signal Crayfish
The sandy beach at Loch Grannoch
Belted Galloway Cattle, or 'Belties'
Fly fishing on the River Cree
A small upland burn
The High Cree, looking towards Cairnsmore of Fleet
A small waterfall on the Buchan Burn
A salmon from the Kirkcudbrightshire Dee
GFT undertakes a range of focussed electrofishing surveys for different fish species including juvenile salmonids, lamprey larvae and eels. Netting surveys, using gill nets and seine nets, are used to provide important data. GFT also holds a range of fyke nets that can be used to collect fish. Commercial nets may also play an important role in providing samples. A range of habitat survey techniques are used depending on the surveys purpose. Disease and parasite testing is important to monitor the health of fish stocks. Growth rates and condition factors are also examined to ensure healthy fish populations are present. Freshwater pearl mussel surveys are undertaken to highlight sensitive areas.
These surveys are undertaken to advise District Salmon Fishery Boards, inform fishery owners, direct and monitor restoration programmes, input to Environmental Impact Assessments, Site Condition Monitoring, research programmes and under contract.
The GFT has undertaken, and will continue to complete extensive monitoring surveys of these rare fish. Where practical, enhancement work is undertaken aimed at stabilising and increasing these ‘at risk’ species.
Sparling (commonly known as smelt), are found in the River Cree. This is one of only three populations in Scotland, and the only remaining one on the west coast. GFT has undertaken Site Condition Monitoring (for SNH), research on swimming speeds, radio tracking project, have written a species action plan, provided genetic samples and are working on a reintroduction programme to a neighbouring river.
Allis shad and Twaite shad are extremely rare fish. GFT has been working with the Fish Conservation Centre and local netsmen to collect fish samples which are then analysed. Of particular interest, is that the spawning condition of the fish suggest that they spawn in or near the Cree.
Lamprey species (brook, river and sea) are known to use most of the Galloway rivers. GFT has undertaken specialised juvenile lamprey surveys now for the last seven years, collected data on spawning sea lampreys and capture samples of spawning river lampreys.
There are concerns regarding falling stocks of European Eels in the waters around Europe. GFT was heavily involved in the writing of the Solway Eel Management Plan and are now undertaking a number of recommendations made by the plan to understand and protect eel stocks. This work includes eel surveys and using elver traps to reintroduce eels to the Dee upstream of the Tongland Dam.
Galloway is prone to surface water acidification from atmospheric deposition due to possessing poorly buffered underlying base-poor geology and soils, which are unable to neutralise acidic inputs. Forested areas exacerbate the process of acidification especially coniferous trees which are particularly efficient at scavenging and filtering acidity. Typically acidification occurs as an episodic event, closely linked to water flow. Prolonged acidic episodes are usually only present in headwater areas, although even here, pH levels will fluctuate depending on rainfall and water flows.
The actual effects of surface water acidification on fish varies with each species. Salmon populations are particularly sensitive and research shows that if pH falls below 5.5, long term damage will occur. Juvenile life stages (principally eggs and alevins) are particularly sensitive. When the pH of a watercourse is low, toxic forms of aluminium may also be released, which may also lead to mortality of older fish.
It is believed that approximately 70% of Scotland’s acidification is in Galloway! The worst acidified areas include the headwaters of the Luce, Water of Tarf, River Bladnoch, High Cree, Big Water of Fleet / Little Water of Fleet and Black Water of Dee. The Solway Tweed River Management Plan states a total length of 242km of running water impacted by acidification in Galloway. The majority of these areas are heavily afforested with coniferous forestry plantations. In all of these watercourses GFT electrofishing results show severely impacted fish populations or the total extinction of fish. Salmon are very rarely found here even though historical information suggests that most were important spring salmon nursery areas.
A lot of the work of the GFT is associated with monitoring and undertaking research associated with acidification. In spring time a water sample testing programme is also undertaken across the acidified areas. GFT egg box experiments examine impacts on salmonid egg survival. All this information is used to input and direct the restructuring of conifer forests in sensitive areas. Whilst a lot has been achieved there is still a lot to do! The Forest and Water Guidelines is the main control mechanism regarding conifer planting (both new and restructuring). In the Guidelines the Critical Load Analysis (CLA) is used to identify areas at risk of acidification and is meant to control replanting to ensure water quality recovers in the future. GFT and various other groups do not have faith in the present system though and are working to ensure CLA is refined to be more sensitive and to use biological data to ensure we get a full recovery of all acidified waters in Galloway.
Genetics is becoming more popular as a tool for fisheries management and GFT is presently involved in two genetics projects. The first is a European wide programme and involves collecting genetic samples from each river in Europe meaning that any rod or net caught fish can be identified to river level. The second project is more thorough and involves collecting samples from a number of sites across a river catchment in order to determine separate breeding populations. GFT is collecting samples from the Luce, Bladnoch, Cree, Fleet, Dee and Urr. In essence, any fish caught in future can be traced back to the particular part of its native river. For example with the first project we should be able to identify a fish as being from the Cree and with the second project we hope to determine where on the Cree that fish has come from i.e. the Penkiln Burn.
Genetic sampling is an exciting modern method of fisheries management that will provide us will invaluable information on fish in the local rivers, putting us at the forefront of salmon and trout management.