Enough is enough - ACA demands new fish pass for the Tees Barrage
The Anglers’ Conservation Association (ACA) has today written to David Miliband, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, demanding immediate action to ease the passage of migratory fish through the Tees Barrage and the construction of a new fish pass at the Barrage.
Eleven years after it was built, only provisional approval is in place for a fish pass which is widely recognised to delay fatally the migration of salmon and sea trout. While these fish attempt to find the woefully inadequate fish pass to allow them to access the river to spawn, seals now effectively resident in the pool immediately downstream of the barrage eat a large number and injure many others (see attached photographs).
Using the Freedom of Information Act, the ACA has gained access to the files of DEFRA, the Environment Agency and British Waterways and they make appalling reading for anyone concerned with salmon and sea trout migration on the Tees. While the nearby River Tyne has recovered into the finest salmon river in England and Wales, the Tees has lagged far behind. If an adequate fish pass were built, there could be enormous economic benefits for an area which is in great need of an injection of income from visiting anglers. Instead, the recovery of the river is being held back by bad design and the utter failure over many years of the various regulators, owners and government bodies supposedly dealing with this.
It is quite clear from the internal assessments, legal advice and other papers the ACA has obtained, that all parties privately recognise that the current fish pass does not work. As early as October 2003, Environment Agency fisheries experts are on record as stating that "if further monitoring is carried out this is likely to show that the fish pass is totally inefficient." In December 2003, DEFRA stated that "neither British Waterways nor the Environment Agency appears to have been taking the problem on the Tees very seriously".
Two years ago, in 2004, DEFRA stated to the Environment Agency that "British Waterways appear to be continuing to avoid the key issue; that the fish barrage [sic] represents an unacceptable barrier to fish movements and the fish pass is not working effectively … it is disappointing that we appear to be no further forward in any assessment of whether the fish pass works effectively or not. Potentially yet another survey will only confirm anglers’ claims … that the fish pass is not effective. As a result we will then need to agree a new fish pass with yet another monitoring programme."
The same assessment could easily be made today and is quite at odds with the earlier public statements of the parties to this fiasco.
The ACA acts for several member clubs and fishery owners on the Tees and is now investigating what legal action can be brought against any of the parties concerned for the clear damage to the salmonid fisheries upstream of the Barrage that has been caused. The ACA has also written to all the parties demanding the immediate revocation of provisional fish pass approval and plans to design and build a new fish pass that works effectively.
ACA Executive Director Mark Lloyd said: “it is depressing to read these government files and to see how much money has been wasted on meetings, letters and repeat studies when the best thing for the environment, for anglers and for the local economy would have been and still remains to build a proper fish pass that works. The Environment Agency - the regulator – and British Waterways and English Partnerships - the current and former owners of the Barrage – are all part of the wider ‘DEFRA family’. While the EA, BW and EP have spent tax-payers’ money bickering like children and failing to deal with the core problem, the Tees will continue to suffer. The Minister must bang some heads together and order a new fish pass now.”