Electro Fishing With The Tweed Bailiffs
Water bailiffs are better known for their role in catching poachers and checking permits which makes them less than popular with the chaps who like to break the rules. Like the police they are fine fellas if you aren't breaking the law, a welcome sight, but aside from chasing poachers in the dead of night what else do they do?
In a chance encounter with Kenny I managed to wangle a chance to observe Tweed Bailiffs doing bread and butter fish conservation work on the river Beamish in the Ingram Valley.
The massive floods that hit the borders last year wrecked many rivers and adjacent properties. The rivers Bowmont and Beamish were hard hit. One flood at Kirknewton burst through a flood bank creating a river course across a field and through a wood before returning to the main stream. As the water fell many fish were trapped in this new river course. Tweed Bailiffs, working with Natural England and Environment Agency staff, mounted a rescue recovering over 450 and fish of over 5lbs as well as thousands of trout and salmon parr in a 4 day electro fishing operation. A mammoth task.
By October 2009 work was still going on to repair the damage done. On the upper reaches of the river Beamish, adjacent to the Ingram Valley Visitor Centre, the river had departed from it's old course cutting away the banks to with a few feet of the centre car park. Work was going on to divert the river back to it's old route which meant that a 250 metre length of river would be blocked off and back filled. Enter fish rescue in the form of the Tweed Bailiffs.
In a 3 hour operation about 8 salmon and hundreds of trout and salmon parr were rescued from this short length of what appeared to be a very unpromising piece water. It opened my eyes somewhat to discover that 2 small pools which, when viewed with polaroids appeared to be devoid of fish, held salmon up to about 10lbs!
The lads did a first class job working tirelessly to make sure that all salmon and as many trout and parr as possible were rescued and transferred to the main stream safely.
The River Tweed Commission
Unlike in England where the Environment Agency manages fish and fishery related issues in Scotland salmon (and sea trout) fisheries fall under the remit of 42 District Salmon Fishery Boards. Boards have been set up for each major river system in the country, financed by the levy charged by each salmon caught.
The River Tweed Commission is a cross border agency managing the affairs of all rivers flowing into the Tweed including many rivers in Northumberland. Anglers are often unaware that when they catch a salmon the fishery will pay anything up £60 + to the Fishery Board which is a major expense for clubs and beat proprietors to bear (the Tweed levy is about £42 for 2009).
In 2008 the River Tweed Commission raised a total of £620,020 from Statutory Assessments, the levy, of which £258,044 was spent on wages a salaries for bailiffs and scientists. Money well spent I would say.
The bailiffs work hard for their pay and without them the salmon entering the Tweed catchments would be very much more at danger from poachers and the ravages of nature.