The Angling Trust welcomed the announcement this week by Fisheries Minister George Eustice that the Government will set out this month proposed new legislation to remove obstructions or build fish passes to provide a route around or through weirs and other barriers to fish migration. This legislation has been promised for the past decade, but has been repeatedly delayed, with the reasons given ranging from lack of parliamentary time to hold-ups by government regulatory risk assessment procedures.

It is hoped that the long-awaited legislation will help organisations like the river trusts and the Environment Agency to gain access and permission to take action on privately-owned structures which act as barriers to fish migration.

Although hundreds of fish passes have been installed over the past decade, there are thousands more obstructions which need to be removed or modified, and it would greatly help the process if landowners were required to co-operate with these works, for the benefit of fish populations on the whole river.

Nearly all fish need to migrate up and down rivers to complete their lifecycle, whilst fish like salmon, sea trout, eels and shad also migrate out to sea. Particularly at times of low flow, barriers to fish migration can prevent adults reaching spawning areas, or young fish heading downstream to find food. Such obstructions also make fish much more vulnerable to predation from otters, mink, cormorants and goosanders.

Mark Lloyd, Chief Executive of the Angling Trust and Fish Legal said: “We are delighted to see a firm commitment from the government to bring this legislation forward at last after many years of delay. Introduction of this legislation is a key demand in the Angling Trust’s Save Our Salmon campaign, because urgent and widespread action to ease thousands of barriers to migration is vital to reverse the decline in salmon stocks.”

He continued: “However, the work will also benefit countless other fish species such as barbel, chub, trout, eels and roach. The best solution is to remove man-made barriers entirely, because fish passes are very rarely if ever 100% effective for all species at all times. Any delay, particularly if there are several on a river, can be fatal for individual fish or prevent them completing their vital life cycle and maintaining healthy populations.”