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Leaps and bounds

Passage issues for migratory fish on the Brit/Asker systems have come on leaps and bounds in the last year or so. Four organisations consisting of Friends of Rivers (Brit and Asker), Environment Agency, Frome, Piddle and West Dorset Fisheries Association and the Westcountry Rivers Trust have really come together to tackle the problems head-on. After identifying three major obstacles namely Palmer’s Weir, Jessop’s Weir and Gundry Weir, plans are being made as to best tackle each site as they have very different features.

One project has already been completed, the weir at Jessop’s which consists of two steep concrete slopes. Roger Genge of the EA secured funding and designed a series of baffles made of recycled materials which have been bolted to the face of the concrete slope. With staggered gaps this produces a zigzag pattern which fish can negotiate. The project was completed in late March and also included an eel pass on the second slope. Although no fish have been seen to ascend the pass, the lack of fish in the pool below may indicate that they have simply passed through. With recent spates and fish seen at other obstacles it is very unusual not to see fish at this time; hopefully fish will be actually witnessed using the pass soon.

The second major project in the pipeline is at Palmer’s Weir where the Asker joins the Brit. Plans have already been drawn up and a Larinier type pass has been designed for this site. Palmer’s Brewery is in full support of this project and the FP&WDFA, WRT, EA and Palmers Brewery are working together to make this venture a success; once all the design and funding details have been sorted out the project should be going ahead next year in time for the 2011 Autumn run.

Funding was made available to survey the weir at Gundry’s and was carried out in September. Again a Larinier type pass is planned and is desperately needed as this is a major obstacle where salmon and sea trout are seen every year struggling to negotiate the steps. Recent electro fishing surveys revealed a few salmon parr below the weir but none further upstream. Hopefully funding can be made available and the last major obstacle for many miles removed.

Finally it has been suggested that a small improvement at West Bay Harbour could be beneficial; although fish can pass over the harbour hatches at high spring tides, with a relatively modest adaptation the fish could find passage easier and on more tides. Although no formal plans have been made yet, one suggestion was to make a v-notch in one of the hatches which would lower the height and concentrate the flow without affecting the levels behind. Other ideas may materialise and it would be very beneficial to improve the situation as fish are often waiting for many days in full view and are very vulnerable at this location.

In the coming winter it is hoped that a few members of FoR are instructed on redd counting so that some idea of the impact of new fish passes can be observed and recorded in future years.