Bucking The Trend
Trout & Salmon|December 2017

James Beeson looks inside a new salmon hatchery on a Cornish river.

James Beeson

AS YOU ARE reading this, somewhere in the St Neot River (or River Loveny as it is also known) 30,000 salmon fry will be darting back and forth above the gravel in some streamy flow. They will grow from fry to parr to smolt and face the dangerous migration to sea. Plenty will perish, but hopefully many will return to the river to be given a helping hand in completing their natural destiny. The St Neot is a tributary of

Cornwall’s River Fowey and if you were to trace it upstream from the confluence near Two Waters Foot you would quickly come to the 900- acre Colliford Reservoir. Below the dam, nestled in a gorge of gorse and bracken, is the hatchery that raised the fry. Originally set up to produce the trout for Colliford, the hatchery was mothballed in 1999. It re-opened in 2016 with more than five years of funding from South West Water. While South West Water (SWW) continues to own the site, it contracts the operation of the hatchery out to the Fowey Rivers Association Limited (FRA Ltd).

In recent years hatcheries have been closing across the UK, whether due to the operational costs, which are high, or as a result of increasingly sceptical scientific opinion that hatcheries are limited in helping the recovery of self-sustaining wild salmon stocks. Under these circumstances, South West Water, the Environment Agency (EA) and the Fowey Rivers Association (FRA) deserve great credit for taking the initiative and starting a new project – a good example of local partnerships working well – though without the support of the EA the project would not have been able to go ahead.

That EA support was given is likely to be due to the particularly unique circumstances that surround the Fowey (in having two large reservoirs, Colliford and Siblyback, in its catchment) and the highly unusual flows in the St Neot. The river being effectively used as a pipeline to transport water to Restormel, which leads to much higher summer flows (when demand is greatest) than would otherwise occur naturally.

I met Richard Grieve, the hatchery manager, and volunteer Jon Hake at the site for a look around the facility. Richard has an infectious enthusiasm, something which must be a strong asset when it comes to motivating volunteers – although from all the people we met up and down the Fowey catchment it seemed that motivation for improving the habitat and the fishing was already in plentiful supply.

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