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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    SW Scotland
    Posts
    90

    Default Hatcheries - a personal view from practical experience

    Fishers,
    I thought I would post my personal experiences of a hatchery on my home river. I will say from the start that these views are my own personal ones - and not those of the hatchery, hatchery manager or the charity that runs the hatchery.

    First a bit of background:
    Here in SW Scotland we have the largest expanses of industrial scale forestry plantations in Britain. What used to be the sponge/filtration for all the rivers, creating a pristine environment for young salmon, has been destroyed. The mass afforestation has caused siltation, flooding from the high level run off, overshading and destruction of the riparian zone along all the headwaters and spawning tributaries. These are only the minor issues! - the biggest environmental impact has been on the water quality. The conifers scavenge pollution from the air and this is transferred through the trees and roots to the soil. The peat geology is poorly buffered and the result is acidified water in the headwaters. Galloway has more acidified watercourses than any other region in Europe!
    Current planting laws prohibit the formation of new plantations on deep peat - which is great. However, this rule is not retrospective, so any existing plantations (a great number of which have been planted on deep peat) can be replanted again... and again...and again. A bit like knocking down a 1950's prefab and then putting another building up to the same specification!!! you really couldn't make it up - but they do!

    The decline in fish stocks started in the late 1970's - fisheries that would catch 100 plus fish before may, within a few years dwindled to zero. The population of salmonids in the high cree has been recognised as becoming extinct for a few years. A pool I used to fish on the bladnoch which is a temperature barrier in the early months regularly produced many many springers, and they were always visible jumping - now most years see a nil return and it is cause for celebration if a fish is seen jumping!
    We (the fishery owners) were promised that improvements in air quality would lead to an improvement in water quality - this was 25 years ago - we are still waiting. Many of the headwaters are still very much acidified and do not support viable populations of naturally spawned fish. The acidity causes the eggs to fail as the young fish hatches out of the egg (something to do with toxic aluminium and not producing an enzyme … I am not a biologist!). But the result is that an acid 'flush' where the pH may go down to as low as 3.5 - results in dead eggs - this has been proven from egg box experiments.

    Apologies - I ramble on.

    The facts are:
    the forestry is here and we are not going to get rid of it
    the political will is to plant more trees - not less. So wholesale reductions in the amount of ground planted is unlikely
    new laws governing planting over deep peat are not retrospective - so existing plantations will be replanted
    the headwaters of a number of tributaries are still acidified

    Acknowledging that the situation is unlikely to improve dramatically in (at best!) the medium term - The local angling association and the Fishery Board made the decision to support the formation of a hatchery - and the river Cree Hatchery and Habitat trust was born.
    This group carry out a huge amount of practical work on the system at very low cost. Cutting sitka regeneration along the banksides (of which there is years of work alone), carrying out FEB counts - applying for licences and culling FEB under these licenses, removing pike and perch from the system, bankside maintenance, and also of course running the hatchery - catching broodstock, rearing the young fish and planting them out. The hatchery is also used as an educational tool and over the years hundreds of young local kids have been taken round the hatchery to look at the broodfish and young fish. They are also taken out to the local burn to look for and identify the insect life, plant out some young fish - and finally taken fishing on a local loch courtesy of the angling association.

    The hatchery plant out the young fish at two stages - fed fry around April/may and then Autumn fish in September (roughly). These Autumn fish are large enough to be adipose fin clipped.
    The first batch of Autumn fin clipped fish were released in 2016 - around 5000 into the Penkiln burn. These were in addition to the fed fry which have been stocked for a number of years - but which cannot be fin clipped due to their small size.
    These fish should now be returning.

    So what has been the result?
    Well, this year (and it is only June) I have landed two multi sea winter salmon which have had their adipose fin clipped … even if no more were landed I (personally) would call this a success. These fish were also caught on the main stem of the Cree - above where the Penkiln burn comes in. The fish must be spending time in the safety of the larger River cree before dropping back later to spawn in the small Penkiln - evidence that stocking the Penkiln has benefit to fisheries other than those on the Penkiln
    Nobody is pretending that the hatchery will double the catch figures - it wont. However, its role should be to 'fill the gaps' where there are no wild fish to be found - thereby making full use of all the available habitat and ensure the river is at maximum carrying capacity (over abundance Orri Vigfussen used to call it!). The acidified regions of the watercourses are a prime example. Studies have shown there is sufficient insect and fly life to support fish populations (and the electrofishing of the stocked sites shows the fish are thriving - stop stocking though and the fish disappear)- but the acid flushes kill off the eggs. Planting fish out from the hatchery gets them past this vulnerable stage.

    Of course the hatchery is only one piece of the jigsaw that is fisheries management - just like habitat work, removal of barriers, improvements in water quality and predator control. These should ALL have a place in the holistic management of a river.
    From my experience the majority of fisheries biologists and scientists do not support hatcheries. They produce many arguments against their use - this is a very short-sighted and narrow minded view. In many instances it is as if the scientists do not WANT the hatcheries to succeed - deliberately limiting the numbers stocked so that 'percentage-wise' it is inevitable that it will fail! Stocking is a numbers game - you need to put significant numbers into the system to get a return. What is also never mentioned is the quality of the stocked fish.
    I know from first hand experience that the quality of the fish stocked into the Cree system is absolutely first class - very very fit and healthy fish - I do not believe this is always the case with some operations.

    ...and then you get Marine Scotland (presumably having taken 'expert' advice from our esteemed fisheries biologists) publishing their latest guidance on stocking - which states that fish should be stocked at eyed ova or unfed fry stages ONLY - you couldn't make it up - but they do!!! just more evidence that they want the whole system of stocking to fail!

    I should add that the rivers Cree and Bladnoch still support a number of Salmon fisheries in the middle and lower reaches - it is just the headwaters that suffer from acidification and many local populations of fish (in particular spring fish as it is in the headwaters) in these areas have been wiped out. In fact the River Cree has been having a great season to date - there is a strong run of fish into the river and most beats are catching fish when the conditions are right (and there is not a lot of rod effort at present!). I will not mention if this has anything to do with the hatchery;-)

    Anyhow - this is my personal view. you can follow the fantastic work of the RCHHT here:

    The River Cree Hatchery and Habitat Trust - Home | Facebook

    I'll put my head back below the parapet!


    LL

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Liverpool
    Posts
    107

    Default Hatcheries

    Quote Originally Posted by Linloskin View Post
    Fishers,
    I thought I would post my personal experiences of a hatchery on my home river. I will say from the start that these views are my own personal ones - and not those of the hatchery, hatchery manager or the charity that runs the hatchery.

    First a bit of background:
    Here in SW Scotland we have the largest expanses of industrial scale forestry plantations in Britain. What used to be the sponge/filtration for all the rivers, creating a pristine environment for young salmon, has been destroyed. The mass afforestation has caused siltation, flooding from the high level run off, overshading and destruction of the riparian zone along all the headwaters and spawning tributaries. These are only the minor issues! - the biggest environmental impact has been on the water quality. The conifers scavenge pollution from the air and this is transferred through the trees and roots to the soil. The peat geology is poorly buffered and the result is acidified water in the headwaters. Galloway has more acidified watercourses than any other region in Europe!
    Current planting laws prohibit the formation of new plantations on deep peat - which is great. However, this rule is not retrospective, so any existing plantations (a great number of which have been planted on deep peat) can be replanted again... and again...and again. A bit like knocking down a 1950's prefab and then putting another building up to the same specification!!! you really couldn't make it up - but they do!

    The decline in fish stocks started in the late 1970's - fisheries that would catch 100 plus fish before may, within a few years dwindled to zero. The population of salmonids in the high cree has been recognised as becoming extinct for a few years. A pool I used to fish on the bladnoch which is a temperature barrier in the early months regularly produced many many springers, and they were always visible jumping - now most years see a nil return and it is cause for celebration if a fish is seen jumping!
    We (the fishery owners) were promised that improvements in air quality would lead to an improvement in water quality - this was 25 years ago - we are still waiting. Many of the headwaters are still very much acidified and do not support viable populations of naturally spawned fish. The acidity causes the eggs to fail as the young fish hatches out of the egg (something to do with toxic aluminium and not producing an enzyme … I am not a biologist!). But the result is that an acid 'flush' where the pH may go down to as low as 3.5 - results in dead eggs - this has been proven from egg box experiments.

    Apologies - I ramble on.

    The facts are:
    the forestry is here and we are not going to get rid of it
    the political will is to plant more trees - not less. So wholesale reductions in the amount of ground planted is unlikely
    new laws governing planting over deep peat are not retrospective - so existing plantations will be replanted
    the headwaters of a number of tributaries are still acidified

    Acknowledging that the situation is unlikely to improve dramatically in (at best!) the medium term - The local angling association and the Fishery Board made the decision to support the formation of a hatchery - and the river Cree Hatchery and Habitat trust was born.
    This group carry out a huge amount of practical work on the system at very low cost. Cutting sitka regeneration along the banksides (of which there is years of work alone), carrying out FEB counts - applying for licences and culling FEB under these licenses, removing pike and perch from the system, bankside maintenance, and also of course running the hatchery - catching broodstock, rearing the young fish and planting them out. The hatchery is also used as an educational tool and over the years hundreds of young local kids have been taken round the hatchery to look at the broodfish and young fish. They are also taken out to the local burn to look for and identify the insect life, plant out some young fish - and finally taken fishing on a local loch courtesy of the angling association.

    The hatchery plant out the young fish at two stages - fed fry around April/may and then Autumn fish in September (roughly). These Autumn fish are large enough to be adipose fin clipped.
    The first batch of Autumn fin clipped fish were released in 2016 - around 5000 into the Penkiln burn. These were in addition to the fed fry which have been stocked for a number of years - but which cannot be fin clipped due to their small size.
    These fish should now be returning.

    So what has been the result?
    Well, this year (and it is only June) I have landed two multi sea winter salmon which have had their adipose fin clipped … even if no more were landed I (personally) would call this a success. These fish were also caught on the main stem of the Cree - above where the Penkiln burn comes in. The fish must be spending time in the safety of the larger River cree before dropping back later to spawn in the small Penkiln - evidence that stocking the Penkiln has benefit to fisheries other than those on the Penkiln
    Nobody is pretending that the hatchery will double the catch figures - it wont. However, its role should be to 'fill the gaps' where there are no wild fish to be found - thereby making full use of all the available habitat and ensure the river is at maximum carrying capacity (over abundance Orri Vigfussen used to call it!). The acidified regions of the watercourses are a prime example. Studies have shown there is sufficient insect and fly life to support fish populations (and the electrofishing of the stocked sites shows the fish are thriving - stop stocking though and the fish disappear)- but the acid flushes kill off the eggs. Planting fish out from the hatchery gets them past this vulnerable stage.

    Of course the hatchery is only one piece of the jigsaw that is fisheries management - just like habitat work, removal of barriers, improvements in water quality and predator control. These should ALL have a place in the holistic management of a river.
    From my experience the majority of fisheries biologists and scientists do not support hatcheries. They produce many arguments against their use - this is a very short-sighted and narrow minded view. In many instances it is as if the scientists do not WANT the hatcheries to succeed - deliberately limiting the numbers stocked so that 'percentage-wise' it is inevitable that it will fail! Stocking is a numbers game - you need to put significant numbers into the system to get a return. What is also never mentioned is the quality of the stocked fish.
    I know from first hand experience that the quality of the fish stocked into the Cree system is absolutely first class - very very fit and healthy fish - I do not believe this is always the case with some operations.

    ...and then you get Marine Scotland (presumably having taken 'expert' advice from our esteemed fisheries biologists) publishing their latest guidance on stocking - which states that fish should be stocked at eyed ova or unfed fry stages ONLY - you couldn't make it up - but they do!!! just more evidence that they want the whole system of stocking to fail!

    I should add that the rivers Cree and Bladnoch still support a number of Salmon fisheries in the middle and lower reaches - it is just the headwaters that suffer from acidification and many local populations of fish (in particular spring fish as it is in the headwaters) in these areas have been wiped out. In fact the River Cree has been having a great season to date - there is a strong run of fish into the river and most beats are catching fish when the conditions are right (and there is not a lot of rod effort at present!). I will not mention if this has anything to do with the hatchery;-)

    Anyhow - this is my personal view. you can follow the fantastic work of the RCHHT here:

    The River Cree Hatchery and Habitat Trust - Home | Facebook

    I'll put my head back below the parapet!


    LL
    great informative article Jamie the Cree is certainly outfishing all the Galloway Ayrshire and Solway rivers in the last couple of years great local support and fantastic volunteers who have got up off their butts to really make a difference and they deserve all our support

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2017
    Location
    Leipzig/Germany
    Posts
    710

    Default

    That’s equal that what I have written about the hatcheries in Denmark. They have caught a lot of really big salmon there this year again.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    Fife
    Posts
    250

    Default

    A good interesting read.
    On a slightly different note, on springwatch tonight
    Chris Packham showed us a new Curlew scheme down south to help dwindling curlew numbers. His words were " rather prevention than cure".
    They are hatching, rearing then releasing pen full of curlews, and not a mention of interfering with natural
    stocks or interfering with natural breeding.
    These scientists that you refer to that are mostly against hatcheries are only clever in my view that they
    are not paying good money to go and fish a struggling river like us dumbasses
    Last edited by midgydug; 11-06-2019 at 09:10 PM.

  5. #5

    Default

    If you think that each river board has a limit to their funding through assessments and about 10 years ago there were grants handed out to river trusts by the government that are no longer available, the biologists that were hired when there was funding now fear that if money was to be put into a hatchery would mean that there would not be enough left to pay their wages and if a hatchery was to be successful they they would no longer be needed so they all stick together and tell us that hatcheries do not work.They have had plenty time to come up with answers as to why fish stocks are still in decline but continue to fail.
    Job protection comes to mind.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    SW Scotland
    Posts
    90

    Default

    The RCHHT do not promote their work as much as they should. Their work with the local youngsters - cubs, scouts, brownies, guides and many others is fantastic. They also take on long term unemployed - cheap labour for some of the manual work. Some of these folk have gone on to secure full time work elsewhere - truly transformational.

    The runs on the Cree, although not what they were historically, are holding their own. We have not experienced the catastrophic decline of some neighbouring rivers. This is despite the continuing problems with acidification and water quality.

    Whether this is down to the hatchery can never be proven as most fish are stocked as fed fry in the spring - and therefore too small to fin clip. When they return as adults it is damn difficult to tell the difference between hatchery and wild! (there is NO difference!!). What I can say is that despite the biologists doomsday prediction that the stock would be irretrievably damaged and an 'extinction vortex' created... we are doing rather well thank you! (smug face on!)
    Personally, I think it is down to ALL the different areas of enhancement. Dave Braillsford of team Sky was fond of saying that team Skys success was down to 'marginal gains'. This term could equally be applied to fisheries management (with perhaps a little less 'chemical' enhancement!!!!). There is no SINGLE magic bullet - if there was then we would all be firing it!

    Whether the scientists ever recognize hatcheries as a legitimate tool to achieve another marginal gain … that is another thread!
    What I can say is that they are making it damn difficult, and in some cases downright obstructive. Marine Scotlands latest missive regarding stocking only eyed ova and unfed fry is further evidence of this. It would appear that any positive hatchery news is met with further entrenchment of their views... and more draconian restrictions - what are they afraid of?? Hatcheries actually working?!

    LL
    Last edited by Linloskin; 12-06-2019 at 12:28 AM. Reason: missing an important NOT

  7. #7

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by midgydug View Post
    A good interesting read.
    On a slightly different note, on springwatch tonight
    Chris Packham showed us a new Curlew scheme down south to help dwindling curlew numbers. His words were " rather prevention than cure".
    They are hatching, rearing then releasing pen full of curlews, and not a mention of interfering with natural
    stocks or interfering with natural breeding.
    These scientists that you refer to that are mostly against hatcheries are only clever in my view that they
    are not paying good money to go and fish a struggling river like us dumbasses
    Every river, I believe, needs to be considered on its own merits and there is no doubt that hatcheries can be part of the solution for some. In the end you can't beat good habitat, but that is becoming increasingly hard to achieve. To further your Curlew analysis it's farming practices, particularly sileage cutting, that has done for ground nesting birds in the south. Unless this is changed stocking more Curlews won't help. Incidentally Mr Packham and his followers might be interested to know that land managed for grouse shooting provides the last real havens for Curlew, as well as Golden and Green Plover, Snipe, Oyster Catchers and other critically endangered ground nesting birds: in fact on just one such estate, Knarsdale, there are more breeding Curlew than in the whole of South and South West England from a line between the Severn and The Wash.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    Paisley strathclyde.
    Posts
    3,621

    Default

    With my river on its knee's a hatchery as far as I can see could do no harm. I think the biggest problem that can be dealt with at present is the goosanders. We have about 70 on our stretch and having watched one eat 5 parr in a few seconds. This would work out at about 350 per day
    We are told that only 5 out of every 100 smolts return to the river so this one bit of river is losing 3 plus returning fish every day.
    Bob.

  9. #9

    Default

    Local river managment for each system is the only way. Decisions being made by local board, and not some folk 1000 miles away.
    If each system had its own river managment we would see massive improvements.

  10. #10

    Exclamation

    My only experience of hatcheries was the Thames Salmon project back in the 1980,s. The project worked to degree, fish returned in catchable numbers (not tons, but enough) considering the scale, 10,000 fry PA for a number of years, I saw a fair number and even hooked one, only to lose it at the net, one angler had 3 braces over two seasons, so it seemed good, the problem was little or no suitable spawning beds, poor summer flows/water quality etc, etc. But it showed me that it could work, given a suitable river environment and enough money to sustain the project for enough time to establish a breeding population. But the water quality is probably the biggest issue, alongside predation. Not easily solved without huge budgets, which are just not going to be found by the authorities.
    A question, on all the threads regarding hatcheries, the issue of genetic integrity of a particular rivers stock is raised, Why????, salmon ,naturally wander, so stocks mix, surely this is natures way of ensuring a mixture in the gene pool, ironing out flaws over time, rather than promoting them, using brood stock from various rivers, might actually be good!!!!
    peter

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