Stewart Stevenson MSP, Scottish Government Minister for Environment and Climate Change, recently accepted an invitation from the Nith District Salmon Fishery Board (NDSFB) to visit the Nith catchment to witness the Board’s work and its management of the river and its tributaries.

Mr Stevenson attended a Board meeting at the Cairndale Hotel on 31st October where he saw at first hand how the Board operates and conducts fishery management. Agenda items included fisheries enforcement and renewable energy proposals through to planning applications, survey work, hatchery operations and other business.  Mr Stevenson entered into the free exchange of views and comments with Board members and attending invitees from SEPA, SNH and the Nith Catchment Fishery Trust.

The following morning the Minister accompanied Board Members and SEPA representatives on a trip from Dumfries through the catchment to New Cumnock where he attended two open-cast coal sites to view river diversion projects that have allowed or are in the process of enabling coal to be removed from beneath the bed of the River Nith.

The Minister had expressed a desire to observe how the Board works with other key stakeholders in ensuring the welfare of salmon, sea trout and other fish species whilst still permitting industrial projects to proceed.  The Board uses current fisheries legislation to protect the aquatic environment.

The first visit was to Kier Mining’s site at Greenburn where a river diversion channel was under construction to allow for the river to be diverted to a new purpose built course in order to permit open cast coal operations under the existing bed of the river.  The necessary engineering procedures were explained by Kier Mining staff and details of the creation of fish habitats within the new river course together with the plans for fish rescue from the original river course were described by Board staff.

The group then visited Scottish Coal’s House of Water open cast site where they were shown a river diversion channel which had been completed in 2004. Scottish Coal outlined how the channel had been constructed over the reinstated ground of a former open cast coal site and Fishery Board staff described habitat features and riparian planting schemes which have benefited aquatic life to thrive.

Scottish Coal demonstrated the various methods of work in the mine and the group saw a controlled explosive blast to free up rock and coal for excavation from the site. The group were also shown examples of mine water discharge treatment carried out to prevent pollution from entering the river system.

Jim Henderson, Director of the NDSFB, said: “We are very pleased that the Minister honoured us with such an extensive visit. He demonstrated a close interest in and detailed knowledge of the diverse issues that face the Board in its implementation of local fishery management”.