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Boosting North Sea Fish Stocks

UK - The UK Environment Agency is taking steps to boost North Sea fish stocks.

The project is called the Living North Sea project which promotes free fish migration. Fish, such as sea trout and eels, which migrate from the sea to fresh water to spawn, have fallen in numbers and the project aims to halt this decline.

It involves 15 different partners from seven different countries including the Association of Rivers Trusts, the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research and the Dutch Angling Association.

As part of the project, fisheries staff from the Environment Agency in the North East have collected samples from sea trout from a number of rivers including the Coquet, Wear, Tyne, Tees and Ure.

Phil Rippon, project manager for the North East Living North Sea project, said: “Our work is part of a bigger genetics project which involves taking samples from sea trout stocks throughout the North Sea area, from countries such as Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Scotland.

“It is believed that sea trout stocks in different rivers are genetically different and it should be possible to track individual river stocks throughout their lifecycles once a genetic fingerprint for that stock is established.

“The aim is to collect samples from both juvenile sea trout in the rivers and adult sea trout caught at sea so that we can discover more about the migratory routes of this important species. The information will help us to identify where individual river stocks migrate to in the North Sea, whether sea trout stray back to different rivers and where there are pressures on individual river stocks.

“The link between rivers, estuaries and the North Sea is vital and we can use this information to see whether there are any problems in our own areas.”

The team has used different techniques to collect information about the North East’s sea trout. They have used information provided by anglers, and data from electrofishing which involves putting a small electric current into the water that temporarily stuns fish.

The results have been sent to Living North Sea partners in Denmark, who are experts in genetics, to be analysed.

Mr Rippon said: “Next year we hope to progress with our surveys by sampling adult fish around the North East Coast.”

The project is part of the Environment Agency’s plan towards meeting the Water Framework Directive (WFD) and the European Commission’s Eel Regulation requirements. The WFD encourages everyone with an interest in water to work together to protect and improve the quality of the water environment, including wildlife habitat, fish population and recreational activities.

the Fish Site Editor

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