Thursday 21 September the Environment Agency released 10,000 baby salmon into the River Churnet at Consall Forge, near Leek and Cheadle. This will be the first time in a hundred years that salmon have been present in the river at Consall.


The salmon have been paid for by the Trent Rivers Trust, who have already successfully re-introduced salmon into the River Dove.


In the past, the Churnet was traditionally a salmon river, but populations of the fish declined as a result of industrial pollution in the 19th century, when it became possibly the worst polluted river in Europe. Recent improvements in water quality have now made it possible to return the fish to one of its natural home rivers.


The young fish being released today were born at the Environment Agency’s Kielder Hatchery earlier this year (March). Now between 3 and 10cm long, they will spend the next winter or two in the River Churnet before heading out to the North Atlantic. After a few years at sea, we hope they will return to the River Churnet to spawn.


Water quality in the river is vital to the survival of these young fish, and to re-establishing salmon in the river. We urge people to help them thrive by taking care to ensure that the river does not become polluted.


This can happen when substances such as oil and chemicals, or organic matter such as agricultural waste or milk, enter the river through surface water drains, which are designed to collect only rainwater. Sometimes, washing machines, showers or toilets can also be connected inadvertently to the surface water system, leading to pollution incidents. Environment management officers regularly sample the river to ensure that water quality remains good and anyone who illegally discharges any waste into a watercourse may be prosecuted.


Local people, especially those who use the river for recreation, can help by reporting any pollution to us immediately on our free 24hr Incident Hotline on 0800 80 70 60.


Fisheries Officer, Mick Buxton, says: “This is a historic day for the River Churnet in Consall, as we return the salmon to one of its natural homes. To ensure the baby fish thrive it is really important that the river does not become polluted. We are asking local people to help by making sure they don’t allow polluting substances to get into the river and by reporting to us quickly any instances of pollution that they see.”


Salmon lifecycle

Salmon remember the scent of their home river and will return after a number of years at sea to breed in the river where they were born. They lay their eggs in gravel in shallow water in November and December. The eggs lie buried in the gravel until March or April, depending on the water temperature. The young fish mostly spend two years in the stream, then make their way to the sea, where they mature, eventually coming back to their home river as adults to begin the breeding cycle again.