The baby salmon are to be introduced into the River Dove at Eaton Dovedale as part of an ongoing project to re-establish a sustainable population of Atlantic salmon in the river.
A further 40,000 baby salmon will be released into the River Churnet. Both releases have been funded by Trent Rivers Trust.
To increase their chances of survival the salmon were reared at the Environment Agency’s Kielder Hatchery. The baby salmon, called fry, hatch in March. By the time they are ready to be released into the river they are known as salmon parr and are around 6–7cm long.
The young salmon will stay in the Dove and Churnet for up to two winters, where they will feed and grow to around 120mm. During this time they will develop their common silvery colour and a tolerance for seawater. This process, known as smoltification, prepares the salmon for their migration down to the sea. The salmon smolts will then start the arduous 130 mile journey down the River Dove to Burton and then on to Hull via the River Trent.
Despite their incredible journey across the Atlantic, some of the salmon will survive and return to the River Dove after spending the winter at sea. During this time, the salmon can grow up to between 5 and 40 pounds depending on how long they stay at sea. When they return to the river the fish can occasionally be seen jumping at the weirs when the river is running high.
Fisheries Team Leader, Phil Wormald, said of the project: “The River Dove was once famous for its salmon, but damage to the environment by developing industry virtually wiped them out. For many years these fantastic creatures were missing from the river. Monday’s release is part of our ongoing commitment to re-establish the salmon population for future generations to enjoy. We also do other projects such as habitat improvement and we plan put fish passes onto weirs, like the one we installed recently at Tutbury Weir, to make the salmon’s journey to its spawning grounds easier.”
Martin Stark, Chairman of the Trent Rivers Trust says “Salmon are icons. They experience this epic journey from freshwater to sea and back again. It was the activities of man which led to their decline but now river conditions have improved so much, we are delighted to be helping to restore a run of fish back to this famous river.”
This latest release follows the release of 160,000 young salmon into the Trent catchment a year ago (September 2008). Recent surveys carried out on the River Dove and River Churnet discovered fish that were stocked in 2008, indicating successful survival and good growth. Some of these fish were also identified migrating towards the sea during trapping surveys in the spring.
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