Salmon return to Sheffield for first time in 200 years - thanks to £1.4m River Don project

Salmon have returned to Sheffield for the first time in 200 years thanks to an award-winning £1.4m project to create five ‘fish passes’ across weirs on the River Don.

Tuesday, 7th January 2020, 1:59 pm

Evidence of salmon spawning in the city - and being caught - was found last year near Attercliffe after a National Lottery and Environment Agency funded project led by the Don Catchment Rivers Trust (DCRT).

As part of the ‘Living Heritage of the River Don’ project, 350 volunteers and 43 community organisations got involved with everything from litter picking to delivering schools sessions.

Over three years, 4,300 bags of litter were removed from the water while over 1,000 children became ‘River Guardians’ by learning about the natural and cultural value of the river.

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Salmon return to River Don. Picture of a salmon caught near Stevenson Road in Sheffield.

As a reward for their success and the community action which brought it about, the trust were awarded the Prix Charles Ritz, a prize awarded to individuals or organisations who champion river improvement work.

Rachel Walker, project manager at Don Catchment Rivers Trust, said: “We are so pleased to have won this award because it recognises the commitment and passion of our volunteers and all the time they have spent improving the River Don – they’ve been out in rain, snow and sunshine alongside project staff.

“We set out to get communities involved in river restoration, and we are glad they have been recognised by the prize – a big thank you to all of our fantastic team at DCRT for making it happen!”

The salmon which have come to Sheffield have laid their eggs at the appropriately named Salmon Pastures, a nature reserve near Attercliffe.

Salmon return to River Don. Construction of fishpass at Brightside weir, 2016.

After feeding near Iceland for most of the year, salmon make their way upstream to lay their eggs with the first point they can do this being on the Don in Sheffield.

The fish haven’t been able to do this in over 200 years owing to the large weirs, which they cannot swim over without the help of ‘fish passes’.

Dozens of weirs were installed on the Don during the industrial revolution to direct water to mills, making the river unnavigable for spawning fish.

Salmon return to River Don. Picture of community 'bioblitz' event at Wardsend Cemetery, Sheffield. People came along to find out what was living in the river near the cemetery. Photo: Kinder Kalsi.
Salmon return to River Don. Fish easement on Lady's Bridge, Sheffield.
Salmon return to River Don. Street art mural completed by young people at Holmes Lock.