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Fish in the Ribble catchment to get helping hand with ‘fish pass’ plans

Posted on - 19th June, 2024 - 12:00pm | Author - | Posted in - Brockholes, Preston News, South Ribble Locations, South Ribble News, Wildlife and Conservation
The current pre-barrages in Bezza Brook. Pic credit: Ribble Rivers Trust.

Migrating fish which swim up the River Ribble could be given a helping hand on their journey with the installation of a ‘fish pass’ at Samlesbury.

Ribble Rivers Trust submitted plans to South Ribble Council back in March for the installation of a new fish pass on Bezza Brook, which is one of the tributaries at Samlesbury that flows in to the Ribble.

A fish pass is a structure built on, in, or alongside a river barrier. These structures help fish move up and down river blocking barriers like weirs and dams. You might also know them as salmon or fish ladders.

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Charlotte Ireland, of Ribble Rivers Trust, said: “The reason we are working on this particular barrier is mainly because, as fish migrate from sea to river, this is one of the first barriers they reach on the River Ribble.

“Previously it [the barrier] was Samlesbury weir, which we removed back in 2020, and is very close to the confluence of Bezza Brook.

“There is already a fish passage there, but it has only been designed for Atlantic salmon, so other species are not able to use it. The fish pass we are going to create will be fit for Atlantic salmon, sea trout, European eels, river lamprey, flounder, smelt, and other coarse fish.

“This is particularly important because smelt are red listed and are a UK Biodiversity Action Plan Priority Species. This fish pass will lie in the marine conservation zone for smelt, which again, is in poor condition.”

She added: “We are hoping to start the work later in the summer, likely starting in early August and finishing in September. This should be the optimum time in terms of weather, rainfall, and river levels.”

The River Ribble at Samlesbury. Pic credit: Ribble Rivers Trust.

According to the Ribble Rivers Trust website, there are more than 1,000 barriers within the region’s watercourses which prevent fish from easily navigating the waterways.

It adds: “If there is anything Lancashire has in an abundance it is rain. The damp climate made it perfect for milling cotton and so, during the Industrial Revolution, thousands of mills sprang up across the county. What’s more, all these mills needed power [and that is] where the weirs come into play.

“Weirs across rivers and streams helped to channel and hold water in mill races. This water was then directed into water wheels and transformed into power. Many mills have been repurposed, but the vast majority of the weirs are now unused, unmaintained, and making our rivers impassable.”

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