A JOINT project between Natural Resources Wales (NRW) and the West Wales Rivers Trust (WWRT) to open the upper reaches of the Eastern Cleddau to migratory fish has been completed.

The removal of the weir at Vicar’s Mill, near Llandissilio, is the culmination of more than six years of planning by NRW and WWRT, and will play a key role in improving the health of the Cleddau and its fish population.

Dave Charlesworth, senior fisheries officer for NRW, said: “There has been a weir at Vicar’s Mill since the 1800s when water power was used for milling. In more recent times the weir height was increased to provide water for a fish farm and a fish pass was built at the same time to allow fish to negotiate the weir.

“Unfortunately, the fish pass tended to block with debris, preventing access to the upper Eastern Cleddau for a variety of migratory fish species, this has been a problem because the river is a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and a number of migratory fish species, such as brook and river lamprey, are features of the designation.

“Removal of the structure will improve access to more than 20kms of upstream fish habitat and restore the natural river geomorphology.

“The scheme also hopes to spike an improvement in salmon and sea trout population numbers which have been under pressure over recent years and bring a much-needed economic boost for local fisheries."

Work to dismantle the weir and fish pass began on September 1, and was carried out by an experienced local contractor who completed the task in just three days.

It is now hoped that all migratory fish species will be able to access the whole Eastern Cleddau catchment to spawn and complete their various life cycles.

Helen Jobson, Senior Executive Officer for West Wales Rivers Trust said: “Today we are celebrating the fact that migratory fish will now be able to access the upper reaches of the Eastern Cleddau," adding: “The completion of this project is a key element in the efforts to improve the health of the Eastern Cleddau for all species and the Trust is very much looking forward to continuing working in partnership with NRW, to ascertain how successful the removal of the structure has been at assisting with improvements to fish populations.”