Fisheries management plan for the Yorkshire River Derwent

Upsher, Daniel James Alfred

Biological sciences
September 2014

Thesis or dissertation

© 2014 Daniel James Alfred Upsher. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

The European Union’s (EU) Water Framework Directive (WFD) necessitates that all Member States must aim to reach good ecological status or potential within inland and coastal waters by 2027. The River Derwent catchment is under substantial pressure (ecological and water quality) from developments such as urbanisation and agricultural intensification. As a consequence, specific reaches of the system are failing to comply with WFD. Surveys and data analysis was undertaken to gain full understanding of the ecological importance and functioning of the River Derwent catchment to determine where and why the system is failing. Major issues were identified and proposals for rehabilitation were planned to help bring the River Derwent and its tributaries to good ecological status or potential.

An overview of the historical status of the catchment found that the River Derwent is under enormous pressure, specifically from barrier structures that are now obsolete in terms of their original purpose; and agricultural land drainage associated with channelisation. A walk-over survey of the majority of the River Derwent and its main tributaries was undertaken to determine and evaluate, specific anthropogenic pressures such as localised land use (farming, industry and aquaculture) specifically in riparian areas and the potential issues that arise from these activities. Areas were identified where potential rehabilitation projects could be implemented.

Analyses of fisheries abundance and diversity, as well as the impact of environmental characteristics and physico-chemical elements on the fish populations, were undertaken to deduce the overall status of the fisheries in the catchment and the influence of ecological change on these fisheries. The predominant impacts on fisheries were from: in-channel structures (barriers to migratory species) causing habitat fragmentation and impoundment of waters, thus altering the flow dynamics; considerable diffuse and point source pollution; increased sediment accumulation; channelisation and disconnection from floodplains altering the flow carrying capacity and decreasing riparian habitat; and riparian degradation reducing the fundamental habitats for the riverine ecosystem, as well as degraded natural processes (sediment trapping). Various solutions and potential projects were outlined that could be delivered by a variety of stakeholders.

In conclusion, partnerships and collaborations between stakeholders, government and non-government organisations are essential for the delivery of practical and active habitat development and improvements. The development of long term solutions by statutory agencies is vital for the mitigation of issues that arise and that will continue to occur if further action is not taken. This research study investigated the prospective for catchment-wide river rehabilitation and the creation of new management strategies to provide successful methods and mechanisms that will help to achieve good ecological status or potential. The main projects proposed were: improve agricultural (and riparian) management and awareness through the installation of buffer strips and erection of stock proof fencing; increase catchment-wide connectivity by modifying in-channel structures or through the addition of a fish pass; and to reinstate natural processes through the setting back or breach of embankments. Finally, the most fundamental project should be the preservation of already existing natural habitats through protection and conservation.

Department of Biological Sciences, The University of Hull
Cowx, I. G. (Ian G.)
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