You may have read the book or seen the film ‘Salmon Fishing in the Yemen’ which tells an entertaining story about an almost impossible task of introducing salmon into an inhospitable, waterless environment. Whilst discussing this film recently, I was disappointed by the ignorance of an ACA member about the measures currently being taken by us and others to improve the stocks of game and other fish in the Avon, which to some extent mimic the efforts of the Yemeni sheikh in the film. I thought it time to set the record straight!
In the past, the Avon has been an excellent river for licensed salmon and sea trout fishing (historical data is provided in the FISHING section of the ECOLOGY page on this ACA website – http://auneconservation.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/RIVER-AVON-FISH-CATCHES.pdf ). However, in 2011 the Environment Agency (EA) invited the public to help improve the river as a habitat for fish (in order to meet EU Water Framework Directive objectives by 2015). As a direct result, the ACA convened a group of interested organisations, the Devon Avon Water Quality Group or DAG, to pool knowledge and resources. After several meetings, these organisations agreed Terms of Reference and a set of objectives based upon the Salmon Action Plan (Avon & Erme) which was drawn up by the EA in 2003 but never enacted. At about the same time, funds became available from DEFRA’s new Catchment Restoration Fund and the Westcounty Rivers Trust, a member organization of DAG, managed to secure almost £700,000 to improve the water quality of South Hams rivers via the so-called The South Hams Rivers Improvement Project (SHRImP). SHRImP will be addressing the DAG objectives over the next few years and progress will be reported via the DAG & SHRImP section of the ‘ECOLOGY’ page on this website (http://auneconservation.org.uk/?page_id=1821 ) where you can find more details about DAG membership, the group’s Terms of Reference and its objectives.
It is our hope that the population levels of sentinel fish species - eel, salmon and trout – which are excellent indicators of the overall health of a river will be restored to a state of abundance or to such a level that the river and its tributaries are achieving their full ecological carrying capacity. The challenges are many but we are certain that the South Hams offers a far more welcoming environment for fish than the Yemen!