Fish stocks fear as waterways recede

Jim Baxter.
Jim Baxter.
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RIVERS could become ‘unfishable’ – and parched moorland set aflame – as drought causes waterways to recede.

Fears have been raised that wildlife could be affected if dry weather continues, after drought was officially declared.

The River Don through Sheffield city centre was looking low yesterday and stewards said its level had fallen by around a foot for this time of year.

Adam Rollitt, one of the city’s team of Don river stewards, said: “The water level has dropped by between 10 and 15 centimetres and the water has receded around two metres from the banks.

“It’s similar to summer levels. Wildlife can adapt to that but, if the situation continues, you could see dead fish and disruption to fish spawning.”

Urgent warnings have been issued about the danger of fires on Peak District moorland left parched by drought. The land is usually still boggy in March but is now as dry as in summer.

Signs at car parks and boundaries urge visitors not to drop litter, discard cigarette ends or light fires as the consequences could be catastrophic.

A Peak District National Park Authority spokesman said there hadn’t been any fires yet but current conditions caused a ‘high risk’.

They added: “The effects of a moorland fire would be very great. There would be a serious impact on wildlife, while drinking water would be affected because reservoirs supplying the area are filled by water from the moors.”

People are urged to call 999 if they spot a moorland fire.

Angling expert Jim Baxter said the river fishing season was closed for fish spawning but could be affected if dry weather lasted.

He said: “It is a worry. We are in more of a tropical climate now where we get extremes of weather throughout the year.

“It is possible the lowest rivers will become unfishable.

“It is very bad but we’re only seeing part of it up here in the north.”

Yesterday workers enjoyed the sun on the Don in Sheffield - but were shocked to learn official drought had hit so early.

Andrew Mattershaw, aged 39, of Green Lane, said: “The River Don is quite low at the moment. I noticed it because there is a piece of wood that sticks out and it has grown bigger.”

John Elvin, 28, of Dinnington, added: “I am obsessed with my garden so I really don’t want a hosepipe ban.”

But Karl Nosek, assistant manager at Kelham Island pub The Riverside, said: “The river fluctuates all the time.

“Everyone has been going on about a drought, and it has dried up a few centimetres but nothing drastic.”

Murray Smith, 29, of Chapeltown, added: “I think the river looks the same as normal. We could do with a beach on it so we can sit outside in our deckchairs!”