Update 5th May 2015
Smolts from our ponds at Bigsweir, Caradoc and Redbrook have been reported self releasing over recent weeks. Smolts in our remaining pond at Nant Gwyn near Builth Wells are expected to have fully silvered over the next few weeks and are planned to be released by Dr John Taylor and his NRW Cynrig staff between 3pm and 4.30pm on Thursday 28th May.
Originally this was a voluntary partnership between Environment Agency Wales, river Wye fishery owners, river organisations and private individuals, created in 2011 to research the inclusion of SNR rearing of salmon smolts as part of a long term stocking strategy for the river Wye. SNR differs from traditional fry/parr stocking combining advantages of hatchery technology in achieving high survival to early juveniles, with the real life experiences of a wild environment protected from predation. There is substantial evidence that post release survival can be improved by increasing ‘real life’ experiences.
The Pilot Pond
Situated above an impassable barrier close to the Nant Gwyn flowing into the Duhonw which itself flows into the river Wye the pond is a few miles downstream of Builth Wells. The site was confirmed by Dr John Taylor (Cynrig Hatchery Manager) of EA Wales as being suitable for a trial involving S1 smolts and Pete Gough (Senior Technical Specialist) of EA Wales approved the trial in September 2011 explaining that the scheme was ‘to explore the potential role of SNR as part of an agreed stocking plan with the objective of producing quality output whilst not placing any natural populations at any risk’. The pond was converted by a specialist contractor during autumn 2011 and whilst it has considerably more capacity the trial was carried out using a much reduced stocking density and 3,500 fin clipped autumn parr were introduced in November 2011. Professionally managed throughout the winter months under the guidance of Dr Taylor, the fish enjoyed foraging on natural aquatic insects and invertebrates with supplementary feeding taking place as required. They grew well reaching 35g average weight, approximately 25% heavier than the average S1 smolt grown at Cynrig hatchery. 60 fish were examined for data recording during the release, 59 of which had lost their parr marks and were well ‘silvered’. The smolts were in very good condition with healthy fins and body condition.
Protection from predators ensured mortalities were kept to a minimum with survival estimated at 97%. Approximately 3,400 smolts were released taking advantage of high water conditions in the tributaries and main stem at the end of April 2012.
Whilst operating improvements have been noted, the trial was extremely successful in achieving its objective of producing high survival rates of healthy smolts in a semi natural environment.
Sadly my good friend Gerry Woods who managed the Nant Gwyn SNR trial died last week after a short illness. Without his selflessness, determination, dedication and enthusiasm the trial would not have been the great success it was. He was gillie at Glanwye and also assisted in brood stock catch up prior to this year. He was one of a very rare breed – happy to work at something he believed in without any need of political correctness – Gerry simply wanted to see the river Wye full of salmon and applauded all efforts to achieve this.
Every person involved with the River Wye whether through enjoyment or employment should be hugely thankful for his help and kindness. He will be missed.
Gerry stocking parr to Nant Gwyn with John Taylor in November 2011
Latest Update. (2012)
Nant Gwyn was stocked on Mon 12th Nov 2012 with 4,900 fin clipped and in fine conditioned parr from Cynrig hatchery. WSA have agreed to manage the site and many thanks to the WSA team for stepping in and carrying out maintenance during the summer. We wish their pond manager Dave Holland and the team well during their first SNR season.
Seven sites (including Nant Gwyn) have now been approved by John Taylor to date (8 ponds as there are 2 at Caradoc). Research for other suitable sites continues with much leg work being completed. WSA have committed to developing and managing the Llanigon site and continue to seek others, particularly upstream of Builth Wells.
Abstraction license forms and maps are being prepared by WSA who is also drafting and assisting with SNR documentation and maps etc. EA request written confirmation from Local Authority confirming whether each site requires planning permission. This includes existing ponds requiring little or no infrastructure works. See map for pond locations. Herefordshire CC require permissions for change for each site existing or new and team are dealing with necessary preparation and paperwork. Still in Herefordshire, both Caradoc ponds have been cleaned, look in good order and should be ready for next season when the weeds and plant life having regrown. The Duchy of Cornwall remain fully supportive of the SNR programme and are working with the team on the planning requirements for Redbrook Farm. This site is ready to go subject to consents. Hardwick Brook is also ready to go and Garnons will require planning permission prior to works commencing.
In Powys a planning consultant is dealing with planning issues, feedback confirms planning is not required on existing Powys sites, we await written confirmation. However an email has been sent to the consultant along these lines and includes guidance for excavating new ponds. It is hoped this Powys model can be used to our advantage for sites in other counties.
The Gloucestershire site at Bigsweir awaits further information from EA. Pond is approved by EA as suitable for SNR requiring only minor improvements. Necessary EA and CCW consents including an Environmental Permit required for each site are in progress.
Support for the SNR programme to be expanded is overwhelming. Progress seems slow but it’s important we deal correctly with approvals.. In 12 months the team has stocked the trial pond twice, proved we can convert ponds, operated SNR successfully under the guidance of EA and worked closely with EA personnel. We have seen an additional 3400 smolts head towards the sea as a result of the trial, seen the second batch of SNR parr stocked into the Nant Gwyn pond and are currently working on the future sites with an ever building team of donors, helpers and supporters.
EAW [now NRW] supported by WSA Team made second year release of smolts from Nant Gwyn on 28th May. Sample of smolts revealed them to be very fit looking, large majority having silvered. One or two fish remaining from last year’s release were noted one of which looked to be 8 or 9 ozs……………..a 50lber in the making maybe! They took no time in getting well down the Nant Gwyn under the cover of some coloured water. Based upon the losses recorded yield is estimated at 98%.
A number of maintenance issues requiring attention were noted, including reduction in weed, repairs to fence and the fitting of a device to prevent snow collapsing netting into water. These plus strimming of surrounding area will be carried out and financed by WSA. Materials on order and we will be confirming dates for work teams shortly.
Activity has been suspended on plans to use the pond at Llanigon [Digedi] due to failure in reaching agreement with the owner. Pity bearing in mind the effort put in by everybody, in particular EAW staff and WSA volunteers. However knowledge, contacts and experience gained during the process of licensing will be invaluable, significantly reducing lead times in future.
Good news with clarification of planning rules by Herefordshire CC meaning our priority can now be to drive 4 ponds in Herefordshire at Hardwick, Redbrook Farm [Duchy] and Caradoc ] forward quickly in order to use them this year. Much good work by WSFOA Committee in tackling the planning hierarchy plus preparation of a detailed paper explaining our project and confirmation of configuration and minimal work required on Herefordshire ponds by WSA team successfully addressed their concerns. Natural Resources Wales and EA Midlands have agreed to allow operation of ponds without discharge consents whilst Fisheries Division gather further water quality data for each pond. This is likely to boost 2013 SNR stocking to a circa 45,000, a significant step towards our target of 100,000pa.
Pond Managers, including 2 local gillies, have been agreed for Redbrook Farm [Duchy], Caradoc and Bigsweir ponds and we have a potential candidate for Hardwick Court.
Owner of pond in Powys at Cross Gates has now signed a 7 year lease. Its instream situation means this pond is relatively straight forward although we will be required to make a Flood Defence application to Powys CC. A local Land Agent has joined our team and is preparing groundwork drawings for submission. Quotations for work and materials are currently being pursued with contractors and there is a possibility this pond could possibly be on stream this year adding 7000 fish to our total. An estimated budget of circa £8000 is attached to this report. We now seek donations to match these expected costs before proceeding.
Owners of another pond in Powys at Doldowlod has draft lease and indicated approval. This is likely to be a significant project with both metered abstraction and discharge to be constructed and is not expected to be online this year. However pre application is now being prepared. A further two ponds on the Camdwr in Ithon catchment have been identified and a visiting is arranged for end of July. We continue our conversations with Llysdinam Estate at Newbridge on Wye and for two further ponds near Hampton Court on the Lugg.
Research and trials by EA Cynrig staff in conjunction with Exeter University have confirmed swab testing kits can provide adequate DNA sampling for stock monitoring. Broodstock DNA samples can be compared with returning fish and hatchery staff will be able to ascertain if sample is from a hatchery/SNR bred fish or its progeny or not and determine from which pond it or its parent[s] migrated. A significant opportunity to view scientifically the success or not of our efforts. A small trial this season to confirm suitability before rolling out full scheme to anglers & gillies next year. This might also allow the elimination in future seasons of the practise of fin clipping parr for identification.