Thursday, 20 August 2009

Passionate about the Petteril

One of the challenges ERT faces is to commence larger scale conservation work on the Petteril. The river has been identified as one of five priority sub-catchments that we feel will make a difference to the Edens fish populations. The problem that the Petteril has is that it is very much the 'poor cousin' of the catchment as it does not have any statutory nature conservation designations such as SAC or SSSI. This has made it very difficult to obtain funding. However we are working on a bid linked to the Water Framework Directive that if successful will kick-start much needed conservation work. As well as traditional fencing we are also planning tree planting, introduction of large Woody Debris and restoration of spawning gravels.

I had the privilege of visiting the Petteril yesterday on an electric fishing survey. The good news is that on the three sites we sampled both trout and salmon fry/ parr were present aswell as bullhead, minnow, stone loach, eel and stickleback. One one site the numbers of salmon could be classed as excellent....but it's too early to get too excited!

One the down side was the extensive distribution of my old Nemesis.... Himalayan Balsam and the apparent high loading of fine sediment that has settled on spawning gravels. That said the Petteril has really captured my imagination and I always have a soft spot for the underdog!

Our friends at the EA are excited too, and we have already agreed to meet to discuss the possibilities for a collaborative project on the river.

I hope to be able to report in the next week or two regarding the success of our funding bid...the Petteril deserves it!

The picture at the top is of a juvenile salmon caputured during our survey. Catching this little fellow has really inspired me to get something done.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

I think were turning Japanese, or is it Himalayan...American?

Continuing my theme of invasive plants the next on our list of most Britians most un-wanted is Japanese Knotweed. Now if you think Balsam is bad Knotweed is the stuff of nightmares.

In Japan, Japanese Knotweed is controlled naturally by a combination of fungus and insects. However, in the UK, there are no natural enemies for Japanese Knotweed and it out competes all our native species for light, water and nutrients.
The speed at which Japanese Knotweed has spread throughout Britain has been nothing less than spectacular. The damage it has already caused to commercial and domestic sites is practically unquantifiable and it now occupies a site in every 10km_ of England and Wales and is also present to a lesser extent in Scotland, Ireland and other parts of Europe.
The aggressive growth pattern is capable of exposing weaknesses in hard engineered structures such as concrete, tarmac, brick walls and foundations.

Specific problems caused by Japanese Knotweed are:

Damage to paving and tarmac areas
Damage to retaining wall structures
Damage to building foundations
Damage to flood defence structures
Damage to archaeological sites
Reduction in land values
Aesthetic issues
Reduction in biodiversity through out-shading native vegetation
Many insects / wildlife that are dependent on our native plants are lost or in danger
Restriction of access to riverbanks for anglers, bank inspection and amenity use

And it's here. We know that it is present in the Eamont system but have scant information on it's distribution throughout the rest of the catchment.

Between the two of them Balsam and Japanese Knotweed represent a serious threat to the ecology of the Eden system. When all of this is coupled with threat from other invaders such as signal crayfish and the salmon parasite Gyrodactylus Salaris (GS) things can look pretty bleak.

However in Eden apart from extensive distribution of balsam, we have managed to avoid being colonised by the others. This has been due to a combination of awareness raising and a huge slice of luck.

We must raise our game to not only control the rate that non-native species are having in the catchment but mount a extensive awareness raising campaign. Sources of introductions can be numerous from 'well meaning' individuals who think they look pretty through to commercial sources such as garden centres. There are lots of other species to be aware of. I've just heard of problems being caused by 'Skunk Cabbage'...the mind boggles as to what that looks / smells like?

We should strive to ensure the Eden retains as many of it's native species as short we need to repel these alien invaders...before it's too late!

The 'striking' advert is from a company called Japanese Knotweed Solutions (JKS) who's Director Mike Clough is helping ERT to scope a project map the distribution and produce a strategy on the Eamont and Petteril sub-catchments. Mike and JKS are donating a significant amount of time to support our charitable activities. They are also corporate sponsors of the Wild Trout Trust. Visit their very informative website

Monday, 3 August 2009

Pulling Together

Last night I enjoyed a wonderful evenings dry fly fishing on the middle Eden. A parachute Greenwell did the trick with seven wild trout to a 1lb and a fantastic grayling of about 1.75lb. As I was enjoying myself I started to take in my surroundings and what really struck me was the profusion of Himalayan Balsam.

This alien invader is really the scourge of the Eden valley.

It out-competes our native plants and in the winter when it dies back can leave river banks vulnerable to erosion. All of that eroded material can choke spawning gravels which in turn will reduce the recruitment of wild salmon, trout and grayling....all in all very bad news.

The distribution of this plant is widespread throughout the catchment and it may appear to some to be a problem that can't be tackled. But here at ERT we feel differently and we are doing something about it. We organise balsam bashing days with volunteers to tackle reaches of the upper Eden where the problem isn't too bad. On it's own this approach will not solve the problem at a catchment level, but it is a very useful at raising awareness of the issue . Moves are a foot to start to co-ordinate efforts not only within the Eden catchment but across Cumbria as a whole. The Cumbria Invasive Species Forum is co-ordinating a bid for funding to take a county based approach to invasive species control. This would be backed up with local coordinators on a catchment by catchment basis. But this still would not be enough ....and this is where angling clubs can really make a difference.

Fishing clubs on the Eden are in a perfect position to make a major contribution in helping to eradicate and control balsam. Each year many clubs organise working parties to 'tidy-up' the river, repair stiles, etc.... Well, how about organising balsam bashing parties as well. This is one of the more significant threats facing the quality of fishing on the river and clubs simply cannot afford to ignore the problem.

It may seem like the problem is too big, but it's not too late and with hard work and co-ordination we can win this battle to eradicate this alien invader!

Invasive issues are rising up the conservation agenda and are also being incorporated in to legislation through mechanisms such as the Water Framework Directive. Here at ERT we would like to have an officer on the ground to co-ordinate our efforts and work with interest groups such as fishing clubs and community groups. We are resource limited but we are hoping to start a demonstration project on the Petteril later this year. Hopefully what we learn will then be used as a blue print for the rest of the catchment.

Please contact us if you would like more information about invasive species and their control within the Eden catchment. Why not attend one of our Balsam Bashing Volunteer Days as well!