Days are numbered for killer fish

Salmon river revival
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A pounds 300,000 scheme has been launched to revive salmon runs in the River Esk, North Yorkshire, and make the banks a more attractive home for otters and bank voles, writes Stephen Goodwin.

The Esk is Yorkshire's only salmon and sea trout river, but the salmon population has been declining for 30 years.

Elliot Morley, the countryside minister, who launched the project in the North York Moors national park, claims it as evidence of the Government's commitment to preservation of the countryside.

The 22-mile Esk is one of the most picturesque rivers in northern England. But bank erosion has led to silt smothering the gravel beds where salmon lay their eggs.

"Silting has become a major problem and the salmon runs in recent years have been very, very poor," said Peter Barfoot, the park's farm conservation adviser.About 500 anglers fish the Esk, for an average of eight days a year.

But fishermen surveyed said they would visit the Esk twice as often if salmon numbers increased. And with each angler spending an average pounds 39 a day, mainly in hotels, pubs and restaurants, the impact of extra visits on the local economy could be considerable.

The partnership for the Esk has brought together landowners, farmers, fishing clubs and government agencies. Around pounds 112,000 will come from an EU fund to help the economies of upland areas, and another pounds 75,500 from the Ministry of Agriculture.

Work will include erosion control, channel improvements and repairs to weirs. Salmon numbers will be boosted through restocking.

But salmon and hoteliers will not be the only beneficiaries. "If we get the habitat right, it could revive the fortunes of a lot of other wildlife on the river, particularly the otter and bank vole," Mr Barfoot said.