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.
Loch Ken is a popular coarse angling venue. During the mid-1990’s North American signal crayfish were identified in the loch. These non-native crayfish are now abundant in Loch Ken and were believed to be having an adverse impact on the fish although this had not been quantified. The main objective of this study was to assess the condition of the fish stocks within Loch Ken. Using the data collected, recommendations for the future management of Loch Ken as a coarse fishery have been made.
Sparling were found in various Scottish rivers in the past but died out from many due to over fishing, pollution 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. The Saving the Sparling project ran for 2 years, employing interns to study the local sparling population in the Cree and to work with and inform the local community about these wonderful fish.
GFT data shows that degraded habitats 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.
In 2016, the Scottish Government implemented conservation limits with the aim of conserving and protecting Atlantic salmon. Conservation limits are used to assess whether each river in Scotland has enough wild Atlantic salmon eggs available to fill all available habitat accessible to salmon. Conservation limits take into account several factors but currently does not take into account differences in angling effort and exploitation rates between rivers.
The lower Black Water of Dee, downstream of the Clatteringshaws Dam, was studied in 2016 by GFT to investigate how the fish populations have reacted to an increase in compensation water flow which had started in 2012. The study also examined the habitats present along the watercourse and considered whether further improvements to instream habitats, riparian habitats or water flows were required to assist in the recovery of the fish stocks. The recommendations to be delivered by GFT early 2019.
Acidification of the upper River Bladnoch catchment, which has been exacerbated by afforestation and peatland degradation is the main limiting factor for juvenile Atlantic salmon recruitment. This study aimed to investigate the distribution of juvenile Atlantic salmon in relation to water quality and other limiting factors such as habitat availability, and provide recommendations for restoration projects with the aim of improving water quality and/or juvenile Atlantic salmon abundance.
Arctic charr historically lived in two upland Galloway lochs; Loch Grannoch and Dungeon. Both lochs lie in the Kirkcudbrightshire Dee catchment. The charr populations died out many years ago due to acidification. Although the trout populations in these waters were severely depleted by the low pH they did survive. In recent years water quality has improved and the trout populations have recovered significantly.
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.
A large weir which was inhibiting salmonid fish passage within the Old Mill Burn, near Twynholm, was successfully removed in 2016 as part of a national fish barrier easement project. Since the weir was removed, GFT have been monitoring the successful recolonisation of migratory fish into the burn.
Fish counters provide an excellent tool for stock assessment and in Scotland, there are 39 in operation. 13 of these are Vaki Riverwatcher fish counters, one of which is in Galloway, located at the bottom of the Kirkcudbrightshire Dee in Tongland fish pass. It was installed in 2007 and is owned by Drax and maintained by the GFT. All migratory fish returning to the Kirkcudbrightshire Dee must pass through this counter and annually, between 500 and 1000 salmon have been recorded in recent years
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.
GFT undertake electrofishing surveys on Galloway's river catchments each year. This is a summary of a report on the health of salmon and trout populations in the Fleet catchment between 2016 and 2018.
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.