Environment Agency staff have unveiled a project of improvements planned for the River Don over the next five years.

The plans include installing a fish pass at Sprotbrough weir, further stocking of barbel, and working with Yorkshire Water to improve sewage treatment systems at Blackburn Meadows and Aldwarke.

Staff have put together the plans following last year’s pollution in the river which killed thousands of fish at Mexborough.

Environment manager for the Don, John Housham said: “The water quality in the Don is generally at a high standard and it can support a wide range of wildlife. By boosting the river’s fish population it will attract different species of wildlife to the riverside and help the Don’s natural recovery.”

The Environment Agency has already secured £32,000 for the project, and £13,000 of this has already been allocated to angling clubs for restocking. It hopes to secure the rest of the funding from partners and lottery grants.

Staff will carry out some of the restocking this year, however the fish pass will cost more than £100,000 and is a long-term project. John says the work is important to help fish move up and down the river system.

“We have done a lot of work to improve the river’s wildlife habitats but the fish are isolated in parts of the river because there is this major barrier at Sprotbrough. We want to change this by installing a fish pass to allow the fish to move freely.

”The River Don is a valuable conservation and recreational area, and we are doing all we can to help preserve this.”

Around 25,000 roach, dace, chub and bream have already been stocked in the river since the pollution incident last July.

Fish were killed when a lengthy period of dry weather followed by intense rainfall caused sewage to get into the river near Rotherham.

The Environment Agency had to deploy equipment to pump hydrogen peroxide into the river to increase the oxygen levels so the aquatic wildlife could survive.

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River Don Recovery plan

South Yorkshire anglers have cause to celebrate following a series of meetings between the River Don Fisheries Consultative Association, and the Environment Agency, which have resulted in a Recovery Action Plan for the river, which was seriously affected by pollution last summer.

Tens of thousands of fish were killed in the incident, including large barbel, chub, bream, roach and dace, when sewage entered the river following heavy rainfall.

As a first stage of recovery the Environment Agency have already stocked more than 25,000 roach, dace and chub between Blackburn Meadows and Conisborough, and this week announced that a further £13,000 is to be made available in order to stock mature barbel between Kilnhurst and Mexborough. This will be followed by a staged introduction of a further 6,000 barbel over the next three years.

In addition major habitat improvements are being planned for the river, which, funding available, will see a fish pass being established at Sprotbrough weir, a major obstacle stopping fish movement from Doncaster upstream, and an ‘off river refuge’ to protect fry during times of high flow, below Rotherham.

The plan also includes extensive capital improvements to Yorkshire Water’s Sewage Treatment Works at Blackburn Meadows and Aldwarke.

Commenting on the plan, Martin Read, Chairman of the National Association of Fisheries and Angling Consultatives, (NAFAC), and a member of the Don Consultative said, ‘This is excellent news and will go a long way to re-establishing the Don as a fishery in an area with possibly the highest concentration of anglers in the country. I am delighted that the Don Consultative, as part of NAFAC, has been able to play such a major role in representing angler’s views and in establishing the current improvements and those planned for the future. 

The National Association of Fisheries and Angling Consultatives (NAFAC) is the national body of local and regional fisheries and angling consultatives (stakeholder groups) that together represent the views of over 400,000 anglers and others with an interest in our fisheries.

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