Argyll Fisheries Trust

MISSION STATEMENT
"To promote and improve the health of aquatic ecosystems and self sustaining fish populations. To understand the biology and ecology of all freshwater fish species, including those that migrate between fresh and marine waters, their environment and factors that affect them."

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What We Do

The work Argyll Fisheries Trust undertakes to meet our charitable objectives comes in many forms.  Our charitable objectives are to:-

  • Understand the composition of all fish populations, distribution and trends in abundance.
  • Identify, protect and improve wild fish populations throughout the Argyll area and the islands.
  • Understand, protect and enhance the physical environment for fish.
  • Educate all sectors of the community on their role in caring for the freshwater environment.

Our work can be categorised as follows:-

Monitoring and Research

Mainly takes the form of fish habitat and fish populations surveys.  Fish habitat surveys are walk-up surveys that seek to classify the suitablility of rivers for salmonid fish.  Such surveys prove useful in identifying the many potential factors that can limit the recruitment of juvenile fish including barriers to fish passage, degraded habitats and pollution points.

The electrofishing technique is used to temporarily stun fish in the close vicinity of the operator, allowing fish to be retained and processed prior to release.  The surveys are undertaken using protocols developed by the Scottish Fisheries Coordination Centre (SFCC) allowing comparisons to be made between survey sites and between years. Data collected from electrofishing and habitat surveys is used to inform local managers of the status of the resource. To date, these surveys have detected a wide variation in fish abundance in different rivers, identified barriers to fish migration and highlighted where restoration activities are required. As well as salmonid fish, electrofishing is also used to collect information on other species such as lamprey, eels, stickleback and other non-native species.

We also undertake redd counts, of surveys of areas where salmonid fish have spawned.  Identification of nesting sites is an important part of understanding the distribution of spawning activity within catchments.

Management Planning

Improvements in the way we manage our resource are essential if we are to prevent further declines in fisheries. AFT is collaborating with a number of organisations to develop long-term strategic management and restoration plans for all catchments in Argyll. Plans for priority catchments are already underway.

Habitat Restoration

The freshwater habitat for fish has been degraded over many years in many of our rivers.  This has been due to historical straightening for agriculture, removal of riverside trees that provided shade and protection for fish, commerical forestry that drained land and changed many burns, livestock access to rivers that degraded river banks.  More recently, renewable power, such as hydro electric schemes, have diverted water from large areas of river.  AFT are working on a number of projects to improve and restore the habitat for the benefit of freshwater fish and fisheries.

Invasive Non-Native Species

AFT are working on a number of projects and several project partners to remove invasive non-native species (INNS) from river banks.  These plants outcompete native plants for space, reducing biodiversity and changing the ecology.  INNS can also change the morphology of a river by destabilising the river banks due to their inferior root system.  The INNS we are targeting at the moment include Japanese knotweed, Himalayan balsam, and Rhododendron ponticum.  The American mink, which is found throughout Argyll, can cause serious damage to freshwater ecosystems, especially to water voles.  Thankfully, at the moment the North American Signal Crayfish has not yet found its way to Argyll.  However, it has been found to the South and North of Argyll, and unless measures are taken, it could well find its way to us.

Education

AFT’s main educational project is Rivers in the Classroom.  This project sets out to establish a program in local primary schools that will engender a caring attitude towards freshwater ecosystems containing important local and UK Biodiversity Action Species such as Atlantic salmon, freshwater pearl mussels, water voles and otters.  An introduction to the aquatic ecosystem, species and habitats is provided to pupils in a classroom-based session. Pupils are shown how to look after fish from eggs until they develop into fry in the early spring. Classes are then taken on a field trip to a river in their area where fry are planted into their natal rivers. Samples of native fish and invertebrates are collected by the children and their habitat described, reinforcing classroom sessions. 

Consultancy

AFT often undertake river surveys to inform local developments, such as hydroelectric schemes, wind farms, engineering projects and aquaculture farms.  Our local knowledge enables us to put the results of these surveys into the proper context.  Our reports not only provide developers and local planning officers with important baseline data on freshwater fish and habitats, but we also provide advice on how best to mitigate the potential effects such developments may have on the ecosystem.

Services we offer include:-

  • Electrofishing surveys (SFCC accredited)
  • Fish habitat surveys (SFCC accredited)
  • Fresh Water Pearl Mussel surveys (SNH accredited)
  • Freshwater loch surveys