£1.1 Million Wye Habitat Improvement Project Approved

A £1.1 million funding package for the Wye Foundation Habitat Improvement Project has been given the go-ahead and work is expected to begin immediately.

The three to five year project has been approved by the Welsh European Programme Executive under the Rural Wales Objective 5b Scheme.

This project centres on tributary habitat improvement work, and aims to benefit a number of wildlife species particularly brown trout, salmon, otters, and crayfish, with the principal focus being on the brown trout.

The decline in Wye salmon stocks is well documented but the decline in brown trout stocks in the river's upper catchment is even more marked. In the past, trout fishing in the huge Upper Wye catchment was productive and very popular with large numbers of visitors who travelled to the area, particularly from the Midlands.

The upper Wye Habitat Improvement Project(WHIP) aims to demonstrate the necessary methods for increasing the economic benefit that can be generated by improving the troutfishing.

THREE ISSUES

Dr Stephen Marsh-Smith, chairman of the Wye Foundation, said "During the past year we have focused all our efforts on three issues. We completed our first by ensuring that spawning salmon have free access to all the upper catchment tributaries to widen the distribution of spawning fish as far as possible. This is the most cost-effective way of increasing parr survival from the reduced number of spawning salmon.

Secondly, we realised that in order to achieve any further significant benefits for salmon, and to extend the benefits to trout and other species, we needed very significant funds to tackle the serious habitat degradation that is common on most Wye tributaries, and we had to be successful with a bid under the 5b Scheme.

Thirdly - let the salmon live by adopting your own catch and release policy". With a deadline of August 11th (1997), the first meeting in June focused attention towards producing a project that would be attractive to patrons, sponsors and to European funding agencies. The organisations in the partnership included: The Wye Foundation (sponsor), The GameConservancy Trust (GCT), The Environment Agency (EA), The Countryside Council for Wales (CCW), the University of Wales College of Cardiff (UWCC), and the Brecknock, Montgomeryshire and Radnor Wildlife Trust (WTS). Additional support for the project has been provided by: The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Severn Trent PLC, The Welsh Office, Strutt & ParkerPLC, Wye Salmon Fishery Owners' Association and the Farmers Union of Wales.

The Project should start before Easter and the Steering Group is currently involved in locating an office base for the project staff, making the necessary appointments and deciding the detail of the work programme.

Ian Lindsay, the project co-ordinator, said

" This project will involve us working very closely with the farming community and their co-operation will be the key to the success of our efforts."

Habitat improvement work carried outon west country trout streams by the Game Conservancy Trust's Dr David Summers has demonstrated that the trout population increases by up to six times in treated stream sections. David will be involved in overseeing the science and monitoring of ourwork.

The principal work includes all or some of the

  1. Fencing of stream margins to exclude stock
  2. Installation of secure drinking areas
  3. Coppicing of overshaded areas
  4. Improving or correcting other factors eg loosening compacted gravels, clearing obstructions, repairing erosion damage. Providing cover.

Farmers will once again be able to benefit from the natural assets of their land by marketing their troutfishing, while the whole river will get the economic benefit from healthy stocks of salmon and other wildlife.

FUNDRAISING IS VITAL

Although the overall budget of the scheme is substantial, a significant part of it comes inservices-in-kind provided by the partnership organisations.Substantial sums of cash still need to be raised as part of our overall requirement. The Foundation is committed to finding an additional £22,000 for the project, above normal needs.