By Yums Cleary, Bournemouth University
My short summer placement with the SAMARCH project was fantastic! The practical work involved wading up the River Frome, electric fishing and collecting data under the expert guidance of some of the GWCT ecologists. Electric fishing requires teamwork, skill and practise and is trickier than it looks! The annual parr-tagging along the Frome aims to tag 10000 salmon parr and 3000 sea trout; genetic identity is collected via scales at the same time.
Data collected on individuals since 2005 provides valuable knowledge and understanding of the salmon population, allowing estimations to be made at several points throughout their fascinating and fragile life cycle: the density of the young in the river; the smolt numbers leaving the river; and those that return as adults.
Each year specific sites are consistently selected to assess the habitat quality. Young salmon are territorial, requiring gravel substrate, shallow, fast-flowing water, and conspicuous amounts of the aquatic plant Ranunculus, to provide both food and shelter. The September weather was glorious and unseasonably warm so much care was taken to keep the water oxygenated and refreshed; the fish welfare is paramount, and they were returned to their territories as soon as possible.
Swans on the River Frome at Nine Hatches, grazing on Ranunculus, a “keystone species” which provides valuable food and habitat for young salmon.