Small Streams Course

In recent years there has been increasing interest in the conservation and management of small streams. These constitute a major proportion of overall river length. The European Environmental Bureau has estimated that some 80% of all river systems in Europe, comprise small streams. They are the arteries of our major trout and salmon rivers, but are easily blocked by impassable culverts, farm crossings and minor land use changes and can be seriously impacted by apparently minor changes in land management practices.  As identified in a previous AST Sea Trout Workshop, small streams provide important spawning habitats, but are easily blocked by impassable culverts, farm crossings and minor land use changes and can be adversely affected by very minor land management practices.  The Workshop concluded that such streams are also poorly protected by existing legislation. It was clear from two subsequent workshops that the care and attention urgently required by burns and streams is most likely to come from volunteers and key catchment based interest groups.  There was also much support for the role that citizen science might play in monitoring such streams.

AST, with our partners in the Annan Trust and the Strangford Lough and Lecale Partnership, commissioned Martin McGarrigle, of Limnos Consultancy, to compile a survey manual based on a small streams survey system in operation for many years in Ireland. The Atlantic Salmon Trust Small Streams Characterisation System (SSCS) was created. Teaching materials to accompany the manual were commissioned by AST from the Galloway Fisheries Trust and Donald Paterson, a consultant with extensive experience in designing and delivering technical courses to fisheries staff. Having assessed the pilot of the course, run this past summer with the enthusiastic assistance of the Stranraer & District Angling Association, the Institute of Fisheries Management has accredited the course and will issue a Certificate of Achievement to those who successfully complete the SSCS course.

The initiative is based on a simple premise: that obtaining high-quality information on the condition of our small streams is key for catchment and fishery managers to put in place plans to protect the high quality water-courses and improve the problematic areas. This citizen science based training programme covers the collection of data on fauna, flora and hydromorphology. It provides volunteers with the required skills and training to walk and monitor the small streams in their particular location, both small mountain streams and discrete coastal streams.  The objective of the assessment is not to intentionally seek out pollution points but to objectively assess the current status of small streams. In many ways identifying and highlighting the presence of pristine streams that have been little impacted by agricultural or forestry practices, is as important as identifying problems in damaged or degraded streams.  The SSCS is now available to River Trusts and other groups who wish to organise small stream assessment training programmes. Those running each programme will be responsible for monitoring the quality of the training provided, conducting the surveys, quality control and storage of the data collected by the volunteers. To offset the costs of developing the programme over the past two years there will be a modest fee charged by AST to access the training materials. Training materials are available to those registered on to courses via the course log-in button.

For further information about the course and how to register please contact:  administrator@atlanticsalmontrust.org

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