The GFT delivers a wide range of projects across the region’s freshwaters and the surrounding catchment.
Please find below summaries of our projects that we are in the process of delivering or have completed recently. When possible we will have included summary reports and data. These project summaries will be regularly updated so you know what we are working on.
In spring time, after up to three years in freshwater, salmon smolts embark on a momentous journey which sees them depart the local rivers and track northwards, to reach rich feeding grounds hundreds to thousands of miles beyond. To enable their passage from freshwater to the marine environment, they must undergo the process of smolting – which changes their physiology, behaviour and morphology.
Sparling were found in various Scottish rivers in the past but died out due to over-fishing, pollution and / or the building of barriers preventing them from reaching suitable spawning habitat. In Scotland they are now one of our rarest fish, apparently only remaining in the Cree, Forth and Tay. For many years GFT has studied the local Sparling population, worked to protect them and informed the local community about these wonderful fish.
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.
Paid internships are an important way to assist post graduates to develop successful careers in the conservation, environmental and fisheries sectors. These internships provide valuable training and experience, as well as giving opportunities to develop new practical skills. GFT offers a programme of paid 6 month internships, usually 2-3 annually, depending on funding.
The Black Water of Dee Restoration Project (phase 1) was undertaken to explore how to restore natural river processes and the wider river ecology back to 20km of the watercourse. This large tributary has become severely degraded due to the drainage of nearby peatlands, extensive conifer afforestation and the construction of Clatteringshaws Dam (part of the Galloway Hydro Scheme) in the 1930’s. An expanded phase 2 work programme has now started and will run from 2023 until 2025.
As our climate warms so does water temperatures in rivers. This has the potential to have significant impact on aquatic ecology, especially native fish. Scottish rivers are regularly reaching temperatures that cause stress to trout and salmon and climate change is going to make this worse.
Climate change poses a number of challenges for rivers and freshwater habitats. Meanwhile, the current state of our rivers means that the ability of these ecosystems to cope with change or disturbance of any kind is severely compromised. A range of river restoration techniques may be implemented to help with both reversing the ongoing declines in biodiversity but also, crucially, enhancing the climate resilience of river systems. These twin aims may be achieved if work is carried out at scale.
Headwaters of many Galloway rivers suffer from acidification following the heavy drainage and planting of the uplands with blanket Sitka Spruce. A functional peatland plays an important role by storing carbon, slowing down water run-off and helping to remove pollutants. If a peatland is heavily drained then it becomes degraded and less efficient. Restoring degraded peatland is an important technique to improve water quality, especially acidification, in upland waters.
The headwaters of many Galloway rivers have been well documented in being subject to the effects of acidification. Atmospheric acid deposition (largely from the burning of fossil fuels) in areas of base-poor geology has resulted in soils exceeding their capacity to buffer against the acid inputs, leading to artificially lowered pH within soils and waterbodies.
GFT undertakes a wide range of work projects and studies every year. Listed below are brief descriptions of various work programmes completed in the past by GFT. Where available we have provided reports as downloads or links.
On Saturday 26th August we held our annual Kirkcowan Fishing Competition. 35 adults and 12 juniors entered the competition this year, providing a fund of £211 that is put back into the event via prizes and a buffet.
Riparian zones bridge the gap between land and river, creating an important habitat for insects while also providing shade and protection against erosion. We do a lot of habitat work mainly to help aquatic species like fish, but we are keen to monitor and understand the wider biodiversity benefits.
As December is right around the corner, I am sad to say that my internship here at GFT is nearly over. However, I am grateful for my experiences at the trust and there is still plenty for me to get up to before it does come to a close.
Hello, Dan here again. Since my last blog I have been getting involved with a number of new things such as crayfish surveys, leading volunteers on habitat restoration works and helping to supervise works on the Black Water of Dee.
It is that time of year again where GFT begin our search or the sparling during their annual spring migration to the upper tidal limit of the River Cree. This year we hope to run several events on the banks of the River Cree to celebrate sparling!
The long awaited Sparling Bridge successfully opened on Saturday 30th November. Crowds gathered either side of the bridge on the sunny afternoon to celebrate the grand opening of the new pedestrian and cycle bridge connecting the communities of Minnigaff and Newton Stewart.
The Galloway Fisheries Trust is working with Natural England to produce a detailed Smelt Restoration Management Plan for the inner Solway Firth, to be the framework for European smelt (sparling) recovery in designated Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) around England and Wales.
On Friday morning Jess, our Prioritised Salmon Habitat Restoration Officer, was joined along the banks of the River Dee by the enthusiastic pupils of Kells Primary School. This term the pupils of Kells Primary are learning all about Scottish nature.
The two-year project aimed at increasing awareness about sparling has come to an end. The project was designed to be delivered by two interns, the second of which Courtney Rowland reflects on her time on the project.
GFT are presently sampling smolts caught in a fyke net at the inflow to Torhouse Fish Farm on the lower River Bladnoch. The fyke net also helps provide data on various other fish species within the Bladnoch catchment.
GFT are currently in the process of downloading data from temperature loggers which are in 20 sites across the river Bladnoch. The data gets downloaded twice a year; once in April and once in October.
GFT commissioned a Bolton based taxidermist, Phillip Leggett to create a realistic sparling model. This model accurately represents three adult sparling, which grow up to 30cm and are still present in the River Cree.
Courtney is GFT's second Saving the Sparling intern. She has been working towards the arrival of Sparling since she began in December, focusing on education and public engagement. Sparling arrived in the Cree around the 22nd of February. This news story is Courtney's update on how it all went.
Each spring the GFT organises an afternoon of presentations covering our work over the previous year. The attendees are usually various funders, supporting organisations, key stakeholders and interested parties.
During the summer this year, we undertook a project (commissioned by Scottish Power) examining why in some years at Tongland fish pass there are a larger number of returning adult Atlantic salmon which are heavily infected with Saprolegnia fungus, in comparison to other years.
A summary of the 2018 timed electrofishing surveys for the Urr are provided. These surveys target salmon fry and provide information on annual fluctuations and distribution across 12 sites spread over the catchment.
We would like to introduce the new Saving the Sparling intern who started on Monday the 17th December. Courtney Rowland will be working for the next 5 months on delivering phase 2 of the Saving the Sparling Project.