Archive for the ‘Main’ Category

CROWDED WATERS

The Avon (Aune) Estuary is a priceless environmental asset. It is a County Wildlife Site and Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) with its shallow waters, extensive mudflats, and saltmarshes.  All of these features are of exceptional ecological value to important populations of fish, invertebrates, migratory birds and waterfowl.

It is vital these habitats remain undisturbed; educating all estuary users is a first step in managing these areas for the benefit of all.  Historically, the Avon Estuary has always been highly valued as a place for quiet contemplation and reflection on natural beauty.   We would ask all users of the estuary to respect these values: in these difficult times, they are more priceless than ever.

Thanks to COVID-19 and the imposition of Lockdowns restricting some forms of exercise, there has been an explosion in the popularity both of outdoor swimming and in the use of SUPs, canoes and kayaks.    Whilst it is good to see the estuary being enjoyed and appreciated by more of the public,  the unusual intensity of the recreational traffic on the water has highlighted the need for Codes of Conduct because the waters are becoming increasingly crowded with users of varying degrees of experience – some are complete novices and may pose a nuisance or even a danger to themselves, others and the environment.    Biosecurity is an ever present concern with the threat of the import of invasive species from other waterways on contaminated craft or wetsuits.    Suitable Codes are suggested on the following pages (see Navigation Bar on homepage: >CODES OF CONDUCT>OUTDOOR SWIMMING or >SUPs, CANOES & KAYAKS).

 

Recreational risks from river & estuary pollution of the Devon Avon (Aune)

The ACA has long been concerned about the potential hazards of recreational use of the Avon Estuary, despite it being swept by tides twice per day (>ECOLOGY>WATER QUALITY).   The Sewage Treatment Works at Aveton Gifford and other sources of pollution, as described in the Rivers Trust website (see link below) are unpredictable sources of water pollution.  Using rivers for swimming, paddling, fishing and playing is fantastically rewarding and good for our health, but like all outdoor sports, carries an element of risk. There is no public health monitoring of river water quality in the UK, so this map (see link below) will help river users weigh up the risk before taking to the water. It shows some of the sources of pathogens (bacteria or viruses) in rivers which can cause illnesses. The Rivers Trust is calling on all river users to join us in tackling these issues.

Use the Search box to find your location or zoom on the map to see the locations of discharges from the sewerage network which are entering rivers. Avoid entering the water immediately downstream of these discharges, especially after it has been raining. Click the Legend and different symbol information buttons or click symbols on the map to popup information about the types of risks. Use the Layer List button to see other layers, including river flow direction so you can check whether the discharges are upstream of your location.

https://www.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=a6dd42e3bc264fc28134c64c00db4a5b&extent=-401307.0872%2C6628364.5565%2C-130261.3849%2C6788576.5678%2C102100

 

Many factors are not possible to show on a map. These include timings and locations of agricultural pollutions, discharges from badly connected household appliances and hidden septic tanks which are not in our datasets. This is why we can never be 100% sure that a location is safe for swimming or recreational access.

Stolen Rib Boat – Tidal Road

Police are appealing for witnesses and anyone with information in connection with a report of theft of a boat from the area of Tidal Road, Aveton Giffon, Kingsbridge.

This took place sometime between Sunday 14 and Monday 15 June 2020.

A Honway T40 4 meter rib boat was stolen, along with a 30HP outboard engine, 2 x paddles and anchor.

If you have any information or have any CCTV in the area please phone 101 or email 101@dc.police.uk quoting crime CR/048151/20.

Thank you.

SPRING NOTES

SPRING NOTES – AUNE CONSERVATION ASSOCIATION

Life in the Devon Avon continues much as normal although recreational activity in the estuary has been severely curtailed during ‘Lockdown’.   Unfortunately, our social gathering in the form of the Tidal Road clean-up planned for the end of April was another casualty of the coronavirus pandemic and advice on social distancing, etc.  Our Spring AGM will probably suffer the same fate.

 

As for normality, this is the time of year when as salmon begin to mature, they adapt for life in salt water in an intermediary stage known as smolts.  This process marks the beginning of their first migration from their home river to the ocean.   Anadromous fish, like salmon, that move from fresh to salt water and back again over the course of their lives, must be able to change their physiology – the way their bodies work.  In a process called smoltification, salmon adapt to the changes salt water causes to their bodies.  In fresh water, the salmon’s body is saltier than the water in which it swims. To work properly, the body needs salt so it tries to keep the salt in.  Some escapes, but the salmon gets enough from the food it eats to make up for the loss.  In the ocean, the water is saltier than the salmon’s body needs to be, so it must try to keep the salt out and the water in.  When salmon swim in the ocean, the salt water draws water out of the fish’s cells.  Salmon adapt by drinking seawater to replace the water their cells lose.  They excrete the excess salt through their gills and urine. As the smolts prepare for ocean life, their appearance also changes, from the dark colours of the fry to the silvery colour of adult salmon. This helps them hide in the light conditions of the surface waters of the open ocean, where there is no dark shade from overhanging trees.  While approximately 30 fry from a redd of 2000 to 2500 eggs grow into smolts, less than four survive to become adults.

 

We are now approximately midway through the smolt migration season, locally, but a big problem in the Devon Avon (Aune) is the potential shortage of water to enable these migrations to occur.  The Aune is a spate river meaning that it is rain-fed, short and fast flowing so the run-off time is quicker; water levels rise and fall relatively quickly, especially upstream.  The water level recorded at the gauging station near Didworthy usually ranges between 0-1.40m; early on 3rd May it was 0.37m.  In contrast, downstream at Loddiswell (usual range from 0.25m -1.80m); the level was 0.26m and falling.  The Avon dam exacerbates the problem of seasonal water shortages although, as part of the original agreement when the dam was built in the 1950s, an ecological ‘bank’ or ‘freshet’ of water should be released in times of drought.    Some years ago, we managed to negotiate with the Environment Agency (EA) and Southwest Water (SWW) to make sure these water releases actually happened – for the first time since the dam was built.   Unfortunately, owing to retirements and headcount reductions in both organisations, the agreement details seemed to become ‘forgotten’ despite my best attempts to familiarise replacement staff with the arrangements.  Happily, following yet more staff reassignments and the appointment of a new, better informed, EA fisheries officer to cover our region, I have just been notified that  because April was a very dry month – although it is raining as I write – the overspill from the dam has been very small of late.    Therefore, a ‘freshet’ of water will be arranged with SWW.  Hopefully, more smolts will make their way to the sea as a result and will eventually come back to our river as adult fish.

 

Stuart Watts – May 2020

Tidal Road clean-up, April 26th 2020 – POSTPONEMENT

Owing to the restrictions imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic, our Tidal Road clean-up on Sunday April 26th has been postponed until such time as we can all emerge from home without risk.

Meanwhile, STAY SAFE!