The Wey forward for a flourishing water environment

Posted: Thursday 2nd April 2009

The Wey Valley’s rich variety of wildlife with thriving communities of animals, birds, insects and plants will now be secured thanks to an action plan, supported by the Environment Agency, for the area’s water environment.

Angling clubs, councils, conservation bodies and landowners fed their knowledge into the plan, which covers the valley’s 300km of watercourses and more than 100 still waters.

The ‘Wey Valley Fisheries Action Plan’ (FAP) is a scheme to support better fisheries and a better environment for all. While the Wey Valley is a prosperous and pleasant place, this prosperity has created great pressures on its fisheries. Centuries of human influence has left a highly modified water environment in some places under increasing stress.

One key action for the valley will improve degraded sections of the river, restoring them back to their natural glory. In places, past river engineering works such as old weir structures have severely degraded natural habitats by deepening water and causing silt build-up.. The plan aims to identify these patches of river and remove or lower the old structures to improve habitats.

The plan identifies key species and habitat for protection and areas for improvement. A table of issues has been agreed with partner organisations, with actions to reduce pressures and ensure a better quality environment for wildlife and people.

Adrian Bicknell, Fisheries Officer for the Environment Agency, said: “Having high-quality fisheries brings far-reaching social and economic benefits for both the environment and people. Angling has direct economic benefits, but it also provides an opportunity to encourage all sectors of society to participate, and develop a better appreciation of the environment. The active programme of protection and improvement is vital for the Wey Valley and I am pleased that we are at the stage to really make a difference.”

Also included in the document are a number of case studies showing improvement work within the river catchment, providing inspiration for future work.

David Savage from the Wey Valley Fisheries Consultative (WVFC) said: “The habitat improvement work on the Bagmoor Stream is an excellent example of a river improvement project supported by the action plan. The Environment Agency were originally contacted by the local Angling Club who were keen to improve habitat for wild brown trout on this tributary of the River Wey.

“We went to the site and carried out an electro-fishing survey, revealed the presence of wild brown trout along with many other species of coarse fish which would benefit from improved spawning habitat.

“Brown trout are Britain’s only native species of trout, and it can only thrive in clean, well-oxygenated rivers and lakes. Destruction of its habitat has driven the native from its former, widespread strongholds. But, as with the work already carried out on the Bagmoor Stream, this action plan will play a major role in giving this wonderful fish a chance to prosper.”

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