River Don work could see salmon return to Sheffield for the first time in 200 years

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A fish pass that could see salmon returning to spawning grounds near Sheffield for the first time in centuries has been completed by the Environment Agency.

After 20 years of work, the final pass on the River Don has been finished which leaves behind a fully joined-up river from the North Sea to spawning grounds in the centre of Sheffield and upstream.

The construction on Masbrough Weir, at Forge Island in Rotherham, was the last of 18 obstructions that needed to be completed in order to allow salmon to move freely up and down the river.

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A number of organisations started working in partnership after there were reports of salmon being caught in the lower River Don around Doncaster in the early 1990s.

The Environment Agency discovered a salmon in the River Don in January of this year.The Environment Agency discovered a salmon in the River Don in January of this year.
The Environment Agency discovered a salmon in the River Don in January of this year. | Other 3rd Party

The body of a 79cm salmon was found by a member of the public in the River Don and reported to the Environment Agency on January 2, 2020.

The project hopes to enable the fish which are native to the North Atlantic and Pacific Ocean to return to spawning habitats in upper catchments in the Pennines for the first time in two hundred years.

Environment Agency catchment co-ordinator for the Don and Rother said: "It is very exciting that this month we will see the completion of the fish pass at Forge Island.

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"With Sheffield City Council also finishing the fish pass on Sanderson's Weir, this will open the entire migratory route from the North Sea to spawning grounds upstream of Sheffield.

"The work to open up the route has been a great partnership effort involving many organisations to enable fish passage at 18 previously unpassable weirs, and hopefully we will now see a sustainable salmon population in the River Don after an absence of around 200 years."

Technical specialist at Yorkshire Water Dr Ben Gillespie said: "We are proud to be partners in this groundbreaking project, returning migrating fish back to their spawning grounds for the first time in 200 years is an incredible achievement."

Stuart Moodie, heritage and environment manager for Canal & River Trust Yorkshire and North East, added: "The trust recognises the importance of improving the environment of the River Don for all of its wildlife, particularly migratory salmon, and also for the human communities that enjoy the river."

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Despite the nationwide coronavirus lockdown and wet winter weather the project was completed on time.

Denise Lelliott, cabinet member for jobs and the local economy with Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council, said: "I'd like to thank workers on the site who have carried out the work on the project through tough winter conditions and the implementation of the coronavirus lockdown period."

Rachel Walker, project manager at Don Catchment Rivers Trust, added: "I can't imagine a tougher set of circumstances for building a fish pass, but we're there now, and we are very proud that the River Don is coming back to life."If there is one thing we have learnt during the lockdown, it's that people need access to the natural environment for their well-being."