After a two year break it was good to once again sit down at High Bullen House Hotel for the AGM of the River Taw Fisheries & Conservation Association. Chairman Andy Gray gave a warm welcome to a good number of members who attended despite ongoing concerns regarding COVID.
As always conservation of the river and habitat dominated the agenda with enlightening talks given by Adrian Dowding from the West Country Rivers Trust and Dr Jamie Stevens who has been working on the SAMARCH project. https://www.samarch.org
Adrian reported on the results of fry surveys undertaken on forty sites across the River Taw catchment. The results were encouraging for some areas of the Upper catchment with some evidence of improvement following gravel washing programmes over recent seasons.
The RTF&CA has adopted a science based approach to conservation efforts funding valuable research into the river’s health. Good scientific based data is vital in providing evidence needed to establish the requirement for funding.
The complexities of nature were made apparent by the fascinating talk delivered by Dr Stevens. The five year SAMARCH project uses the genetic codes of sea trout and salmon to establish their movements within the marine environment. This is undoubtedly highly complex scientific research that provides an extremely valuable tool in determining where conservation efforts need to be focussed. The mapping can be used to inform on decisions relating to Marine Protected Areas (MPA’s).
Nature is complex and the more we understand the more able we are in successfully managing it. We wouldn’t need to if we didn’t abuse it!
The associations secretary Ian Blewett gave a passionate summary of the vital work undertaken by the RTF&CA highlighting the need for numerous bodies to come together in an alliance for the long term good of the rivers. There are many groups with different agendas regarding the river who share a basic need. My own personal view is that rivers are the vital arteries of the land and as such should be fit for both fish and humans to swim within.
Ian explained that alliances between interested parties that have at times not seen eye to eye is vital to ensure improvement in agricultural practices and in ensuring adequate treatment of waste effluent. There are many groups that are starting to work in partnership giving some hope that there is a brighter future for our rivers.
I frequently use the term “Our Rivers”. This is not because we actually own them as we are in reality custodians of the environment with a responsibility to look after this part of the natural world ensuring its long term health. My reasoning is that by inferring ownership it inspires a responsibility to look after that which we perceive as owning.
The catch statistics from the river revealed that in 2021 a disappointing 65 salmon and 120 sea trout were caught by anglers. These results reflect a long term reduction in catches. Low water conditions and COVID lockdowns undoubtedly had some impact on these results so it is possible that this season will show an improvement. At the time of writing at least five salmon have been caught on the Taw and three on the Torridge.
The AGM was followed by a fundraising auction ensuring valuable funding for future conservation projects.
The dinner that followed was delicious and enabled a welcome chance to gather around the table and swap many tales from the riverside and beyond.
Those who value the River Taw should consider joining the River Taw Fisheries & Conservation Association.