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Fish survival rates on River Dee boosted by new project

20 Aug 2023 3 minute read
Photo Natural Resources Wales

Work to improve survival rates for fish migrating on the River Dee has had an immediate impact, with juvenile fish seen passing through a notch at Chester weir only days after the project led by National Resources Wales (NRW) was completed.

The project, carried out in partnership with the UK Government’s Environment Agency, aims to improve downstream passage for young salmon and sea trout as part of the multi-million-pound LIFE Dee River project.

Located at the tidal limit of the Dee, Chester weir is 150 metres in length and three metres high. An existing canoe and fish gate was in place in the weir crest that had not functioned for over 20 years.

Prior to the work, young fish were often delayed on their downstream journey by the weir, particularly at low flows in the spring when there was not enough water to help them pass over the structure.


Unable to swim over such a large man-made barrier, fish would congregate above the weir and were more vulnerable to predators including birds and larger fish.

Work to dismantle the existing gate and surrounding structure was carried out during low tides by local contractors, using a pontoon to transport materials across the river.

A new, specially fabricated stainless-steel gate was installed which is operated by a winch on the bank, allowing it to be opened and closed easily at key periods throughout the year.

Gethin Morris, Senior River Restoration Officer for the LIFE Dee River project, said:

“It’s fantastic to see that fish are already finding their way through the notch, showing the immediate benefits of carrying out this work.

“River connectivity and improving access at structures such as Chester weir, is vital for the upstream and downstream migration of fish and will have a direct impact on spawning success.

“This important work will provide a safe route downstream for juvenile fish, reducing delays at the weir and increasing their chance of survival, which is crucial in our efforts to help reverse the global decline in fish populations.”

Positive results

Rebecca Marsh, Environment Agency Fisheries Team Leader, added: “We are delighted to see such positive results following the improvement works on Chester weir. It is vital that fish can migrate through rivers to help support their breeding populations and provide access to sustainable habitats.

“The Environment Agency is committed to working with others including the LIFE Dee River project to improve the ecology of rivers and protect the local wildlife.”

The recent works at Chester weir feed into the project’s larger programme of works throughout the entire Dee catchment, which is more than 1,800 km².

Issues such as habitat loss, poor spawning grounds, pollution and man-made barriers are all being addressed by the project, and positive results are already being seen.

With freshwater populations in rapid decline, dropping by an average of 83% since 1970 according to the 2022 Living Planet Report, the LIFE Dee River project is fighting to ensure the River Dee and the ecosystem it sustains will be there for the enjoyment of generations to come.

The project is funded by the EU LIFE programme, Welsh Government, Environment Agency, Eryri National Park Authority, Dŵr Cymru/Welsh Water, and will run until December 2024.

To find out more about the project, visit the project’s webpage, follow @LIFEAfonDyfrdwy on social media or email the team at [email protected]

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Cathy Jones
Cathy Jones
8 months ago

An existing canoe and fish gate was in place in the weir crest that had not functioned for over 20 years.”

Twenty* years of bone idleness, twenty years of stocks declining and now we should all do what? Pat them on their backs for FINALLY doing the absolute bare minimum?

*When used in a sentence the number “twenty” is typed out as a word. In sentences you use words. In calculations you use numbers.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
8 months ago

Where have the fishing clubs been on this ? The backstory deserves a closer look, the province of a local newspaper…

Ap Kenneth
Ap Kenneth
8 months ago

A fish weir out of action for 20 years, is that acceptable and who was responsible? The team who are now attending to the detailed work are not to blame and a number of weirs and obstacles to the fish are being removed. The biggest yet to be removed is the weir at Erbistock but it will also be interesting to see how they cope with the listed Horseshoe Falls above Llangollen. There are also numerous obstacles to wildlife like the weirs at Sontley on the Clywedog that are not part of this scheme. It is however the lack of… Read more »

8 months ago

Surprised we are still getting EU money.
Does not appear to be any Westminster leveling up money.

8 months ago

There is a fish pass on the River Neath at Aberdulais which is completely redundant. It was built at the side of a weir in 2002. A few years later a breach appeared at the side of the fish pass and it has gradually widened over the years. NRW refuse to take responsibility for the breach in the weir. The weir used to supply water to the Port Tennant Company for the Tennant Canal and it was sold on to an energy company. After the weir failed pumps were installed to maintain the supply, but the energy company (Baglan Energy)… Read more »

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