Paddling Down The Aire For World Fish Migration Day

On Saturday 21st April Professor Jonathan Grey and Tim Jacklin from The Wild Trout Trust will be paddling down the River Aire from Gargarve to Leeds along the route that migratory fish will take once fish passes have been installed on the last four large weirs that block their route. Their trip on a sit on kayak will enable them to share a “fish eye view” of the river to raise awareness of the importance of open rivers for migratory fish species like sea trout and salmon.

St Annes Mills fish pass on the River Aire – Built by the Aire Rivers Trust in 2016

World Fish Migration Day is a biennial event and this year falls upon the 21st April. It is an event to create awareness of the importance of open rivers and migratory fish. The River Aire has been shackled and harnessed for industry in the past but many of the weirs associated with former mills are now redundant.

To highlight the work that the Environment Agency, Wild Trout Trust, the Environment Agency, and the Aire Rivers Trust are doing to improve connectivity within the River Aire catchment, two WTT Conservation Officers (Jonathan Grey & Tim Jacklin) will be kayaking Gargrave to Leeds. This 35 mile section contains four of the largest remaining weirs which will be tackled to improve fish passage using Heritage Lottery funding in a joint project between The Aire Rivers Trust and the Environment Agency – DNAire (Developing the Natural Aire).

The journey will be recorded with time-lapse from the prow of the boat to give as close to a fish-eye perspective as possible; as well as with drone footage if weather allows. Records will be made of habitat quality and any detrimental issues will be noted at the same time for future funding applications for river improvement. The various angling clubs with rights between Leeds and Gargrave will be supporting the event from the banks and at strategic bridge crossings.

“We are putting ourselves in the shoes or fins of the young salmon as they journey to the sea and will encounter some of the obstacles they face in the river. It is important to have our rivers as open as possible to allow all fish to breed, feed and shelter throughout the river.” – Jonathan Grey, The Wild Trout Trust.

DNAire is currently in its development phase. Simon Watts from The Aire Rivers Trust will be visiting public events throughout the summer to gather public support and to promote their plans for community engagement during the project. DNAire will see the creation of a virtual (and where possible a physical) trail along the River Aire to enable people to share in the return of the iconic salmon to the River Aire together with volunteering opportunities in river stewardship and citizen science. Activities for the public as part of DNAire will run until 2022 with the fish passes expected to be constructed in summer 2020.

“The DNAire project is an exciting opportunity to once again see a vibrant and varied fish population in the River Aire. With the support of National Lottery players, funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund will enable the Aire Rivers Trust and the Environment Agency to help the public explore the natural, built and cultural heritage of our much-loved river.” – Simon Watts, The Aire Rivers Trust.

Follow Jonathan Grey and Tim Jacklin’s progress on the day via twitter at @ProfJGrey. For more information about the route and the project visit: http://wildtrout.org/wttblog/weird-way-travel 

To find out more about DNAire project visit: https://aireriverstrust.org.uk/dnaire-developing-the-natural-aire/