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 2020
GFT’s Salmon habitat restoration project said goodbye to Dr Jess Rodger at the end of 2019; the new project officer, Phil Dowling, is continuing the project by working to design and implement habitat restoration works on priority watercourses across Galloway river catchments aiming to increase Salmon populations.
An integral part of the work completed previously by Jess in 2019 was to create a prioritisation method to highlight where habitat restoration work should be focussed to deliver the greatest benefits for local salmon populations. The prioritisation method aimed to draw together data available to GFT and local knowledge to rank sections of watercourse and highlight the top priority sections for habitat restoration in a river catchment. Jess used this data to create a set of maps covering the Luce, Bladnoch, Cree, Fleet, Dee and Urr river catchments highlighting prioritised watercourses to focus on.
The new project officer, Phil started in early 2020, and started to undertake walkover habitat surveys on these prioritised rivers and burns to identify what issues are present that may be negatively impacting upon salmon numbers, Phil then considers what restoration works are needed to resolve these.
The project was put on hold for three months due to Phil being put on Furlough but he restarted the project in early July.
Priority watercourses have been getting surveyed within the Bladnoch, Fleet and Luce catchments so far, all with a variety of issues such as livestock erosion, instream barriers or poor water quality identified. The effectiveness of restoration works will be observed through monitoring. Some of the walkover surveys have also found that some burns are not suitable for restoration for various reasons such as being too small or natural steep waterfalls preventing fish passage.
GFT will not do all the restoration work alone and the project relies on working closely with others in partnerships.
In the spring Phil was working with volunteers from Gatehouse to remove conifer regeneration and plant native deciduous trees within the Little Water of Fleet riparian zone.
Some of the habitat restoration works identified will be relatively easy to arrange and deliver within the forthcoming year but other works will be longer term such as making changes to Forest Plans or larger scale engineering works.
Undertaking targeted instream and riparian habitat works will not only benefit salmon but also numerous other species that rely on the same habitats and require good water quality.
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.