A South Mainland community has shown its green credentials in a move to help fish navigate a burn that they have hardly been able to use since the floods and landslides of 2003.
In what is thought to be a first for Shetland, a fish ladder has been built in the burn in Hoswick to enable young trout to jump upstream. They have struggled to do this since the devastation of 10 years ago.
Sandwick resident Neville Martin said that the bridge over the burn had been washed away then, and although SIC had done a good job of rebuilding the site with three road culverts, water only flowed over them in a “thin layer”, making it impassable to fish.
Now, thanks to the ladder, instead of water going through three culverts, at times of “low flow” all the water goes through one, creating a water depth of around six inches which fish can jump up.
The idea of the ladder came from Mr Martin and was developed in consultation with anglers, Sandwick Community Council and the SIC roads department, which did the drawings.
Mr Martin said: “Sandwick could be a good model for other places, navigation of lots of burns is difficult at this time of year. Hopefully they [the trout] will use it.”
The ladder had been reasonably cheap to put in, he said, and had attracted a grant of £5,000 from the SIC. It forms part of wider environmental improvements in the area, where there has been a lot of planting.
Mr Martin said: “The whole burn is really coming together with a plantation. Hopefully it will be good for twitchers, and anglers will be along next.”
The trout ladder was created by Sandwick builder David Smith, and made a change from his usual work of house-building.
Mr Smith said: “It was different from what we’ve done before, but nothing overly complicated. It is a concrete structure with five little ponds and the fish jump from one to the other. They swim into the flow of water.”
The project had taken about a week to build, he said, and involved blocking off one of the three pipes and chanelling the water through the other two while under construction.
Anglers are delighted that the burn is set once again to support trout – and could potentially be more trout-friendly than in the years before 2003. John Bain of Shetland Anglers Association said the association stocks burns throughout Shetland, and he used to put “a few hundred” young fish in the Hoswick burn every year, even though, like the one at Channerwick, it was “cleaned out” by the landslides. Although he has not stocked the Hoswick burn for a couple of years he has recently seen a few young fish there.
Mr Bain said: “There were never many fish went up that burn but every little helps. Now we are hoping to create a few pools to sustain young fish while they grow up.”
He said they stay in pools until they are two years old, after which they migrate to the sea. They then return to the pools to spawn. Natural burns develop their own holding areas among the rocks, he said, but in this area these had been lost.
Mr Bain said: “I’m thrilled with this ladder, there’s a few more places in Shetland that could do with them as well. When it’s finished it will work well. Pools have to be there for it to work, to sustain life for the first two years and for fish to spawn there.”
Shetland Anglers Association distributes around 150,000 young trout annually, using brood stock from Walls which is grown on in the hatchery in Weisdale. The trout are around two inches long when they are put into burns.
This year the association, whose members fund the stocking themselves, has put 5,000 into each of the two Cunningsburgh burns, 5,000 into the burn at Channerwick and few hundred into the Sandwick burn.