‘Citizen scientists’ play key role in helping Devon fish populations thrive into the future

    Volunteers using intertidal netting

    New data gathered by volunteers in East Devon suggests fish populations could thrive as part of the Lower Otter Restoration Project (LORP).

    Local residents have been taking part in an ongoing ‘citizen science’ project with the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths Conservation Trust and Clinton Devon Estates, helping to carry out fish surveys that form part of the Project PACCo (Promoting Adaptation to Changing Coasts) environmental monitoring work in the Lower Otter Estuary.

    LORP is a landscape-scale climate adaptation scheme to address the impact of climate change, by returning the Lower Otter estuary and flood plain to a more natural condition. Its benefits include the re-creation of 55 hectares of intertidal habitats, including mudflat and saltmarsh which provide a home for numerous rare and endangered native and migratory species.

    Along with the Saâne Valley in Normandy, France, the estuary is one of two pilot sites where 100 hectares of coastal wetland will be restored under Project PACCo. The aim of PACCo is to demonstrate that it is possible for coastal communities to deliver a range of benefits for people and the environment, by adapting pre-emptively to climate change. Led by the Environment Agency, this project lasting over 3 years has a budget of €25.7m, of which €17.8m in funding has been provided by the European Regional Development Fund, via the Interreg France (Channel) England Programme. The project is also part-funded by the Environment Agency.

    Volunteers have recently returned to the estuary and saltmarsh areas of the River Otter to continue gathering important baseline data, under the watchful eye of marine fisheries management consultant and marine lead for the Institute of Fisheries Management (IFM), Steve Colclough, a recognised UK expert in the field.

    This data will be used as a baseline from which to inform how fish will hopefully thrive in the new saltmarsh area that will be created in 2023, when the embankment of the estuary is breached, as part of the LORP and PACCo schemes. 

    Steve said the signs are positive. In the latest survey, carried out in late July, similar species of fish were identified at the site, but were smaller, as this year the monitoring was taking place earlier in their life cycle.

    “It’s what we expected to find, but what this did demonstrate was that they had spent the whole summer in this environment and shows how critically important the area is as a marine nursery ground,” said Steve, who will lead another monitoring session at the end of September.

    Steve continued: “Sadly, we have removed 80 percent of saltmarshes around western Europe over the past 200 years through land claim and sea defence work. Now we have the exciting potential, through this restoration project, to create a new saltmarsh as it was two centuries ago. 

    “The baseline data we have gathered so far suggest fish will thrive, but it’s not just beneficial for the fish and other wildlife. A new piece of saltmarsh is ten times as good as a piece of woodland for sucking carbon out of the atmosphere.”

    Steve first joined volunteers working with the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths Conservation Trust/Clinton Devon Estates last September, when the initial two-day monitoring was carried out on the River Otter, which was also designated a Marine Conservation Zone in 2019.

    Over two days they netted a number of fish species, including mullet, bass, pollock, plaice and an abundance of common gobies.

    During several training sessions, Steve has taught the volunteers the importance of estuarine areas to fish populations, how they use tidal flows to feed in intertidal habitats and how to identify certain fish species. They were also shown how to safely deploy both fyke and seine netting to catch fish for measuring.

    More from East Devon News

    • Exmouth RNLI’s Dougie is running the London Marathon

      The 40 year old father of two has been accepted into next years London Marathon and hopes to meet his target to raise £2,300 for the lifesaving charity.

    • How much heat is your house losing?

      Sidmouth Town Council have bought an infrared camera to help residents understand heat loss from their houses. A small team of volunteers photograph your house and produced a short report on where there was evidence of heat loss. If you are interested, please contact Sidmouth Town Council and complete the form on the Council website.

    • Sidmouth Boxing Day Swim Cancelled This Year

      For the last 30 years along with the local RNLI branch who have undertaken the insurance, we have to advise that unfortunately due to lack of willing volunteers the local RNLI branch no longer exists, therefore we have to inform you that there will be no Boxing Day swim

    • Police Appeal for Witnesses following a Serious collision on the A30 nr. Honiton

      Emergency services were called at about 2.45pm on Saturday 26 November to reports of a road traffic collision involving an orange Vauxhall Crossland, a grey Mitsubishi ASX and a grey Kia Rio.

    • Statement on asylum seekers housed by the Home Office at Exmouth hotel

      East Devon District Council has been made aware of the decision by the Home Office to accommodate asylum seekers in Exmouth and is working with partner organisations to facilitate any support that may be required.

    • Devon’s highways teams prepared for winter

      With temperatures forecast to drop next week Devon’s highways teams say they’re prepared to face whatever the elements throw at the county’s roads over the next few months.

    • Exmouth RNLI Fireworks a blazing success

      The lifesavers are pleased to announce their Fireworks Display 2022 held at the Exmouth Rugby Club on the evening of Friday 4 November raised £13,845 and would like to thank all those who came along to enjoy the event and the many local businesses who gave it their support.

    • Police appeal for help to identify body found on coastline at Sidmouth

      Police are appealing for the public’s help to identify a man who was found deceased at Sidmouth this week. Officers were called at 2.20pm on Thursday 24 November after the man’s body was found on rocks at The Esplanade, Sidmouth.

    Schedule

    • Ben Clark

      7:00am - 11:00am

      Breakfast Show Sponsored by Home Instead

    • Andy Green

      11:00am - 2:00pm

      Daytime Show Sponsored by Rose Lodge

    • Non Stop Pop

      2:00pm - 4:00pm

      Sponsored by The Clinton Arms

    Tide Times

    Today's Weather

    • Exmouth

      Heavy rain shower

      High: 6°C | Low: 3°C

    • Sidmouth

      Heavy rain shower

      High: 6°C | Low: 3°C

    • Exeter

      Heavy rain shower

      High: 5°C | Low: 3°C

    • Dawlish

      Heavy rain shower

      High: 6°C | Low: 4°C

    Easy Fundraising

    What's On