Swimming against the tide: major UK wildlife project to help save rare fish

Twaite shad dish
The threatened twaite and allis shad could be saved thanks to an ambitious project to re-open the river Severn and Teme for migration Rob Hillman
An ambitious scheme to re-open the River Severn and its major tributary for fish and wildlife has been awarded £10.8million by HLF.

Unlocking the Severn will reconnect local communities with the lost natural, cultural and industrial heritage of this magical river. It will also help secure the long-term future of many of the UK’s declining and protected fish species, including the now threatened twaite and allis shad - a species favoured in the court of Henry III, once abundant and famed all across Europe for its taste and quality.

HLF Trustee Tom Tew said: “Unlocking the Severn will save a wonderful, but endangered, migratory fish and hugely benefit the River Severn’s wider environmental health. This project will decisively return over 200km of spawning habitat to the shad enabling them to run up the river in May, as they used to in Medieval times, in their tens of thousands. We know that people care deeply about the natural world around them. We are pleased to be using National Lottery money to solve an enduring problem on the UK’s longest river.”

[quote=Tom Tew, HLF Trustee]“We are pleased to be using National Lottery money to solve an enduring problem on the UK’s longest river.”[/quote]

Largest project of its kind

The £19.4m project, the largest of its kind ever attempted in Europe, was developed as part of a three-year collaborative partnership between the Severn Rivers Trust, the Canal & River Trust, the Environment Agency and Natural England. It will re-open the UK’s longest river to all fish species, many of which became extinct in the upper reaches following the installation of weirs required to power the Industrial Revolution in the 1800s.

Spawning grounds

The work will substantially increasing access to the critical spawning grounds fish require to complete their complex and fascinating lifecycles. It will also benefit other critically declining species such as salmon and the European eel – all species on which the communities along the banks of the River Severn were historically built.