Tag Archives: Fish

Celebrating and protecting the heart and ‘sole’ of Bristol Rivers’ Biodiversity

Bristol Harbour, looking down from M-Shed Museum on a sunny day.

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There has been a rapid deterioration of biodiversity in our lifetime, and since 1970 the world has lost up to 76% of insects and 60% of wild invertebrates. In addition, species populations are declining twice as quickly in freshwater such as rivers and lakes than in marine and terrestrial environments.

COP15 will focus on new and ambitious global goals to transform the decline of nature by 2050

In February 2020, Bristol was the first city in the UK to declare an Ecological Emergency in response to the decline in wildlife in our city, where we’ve seen songbird populations, such as starlings and swifts, drop by a shocking 96%.

We developed the One City Ecological Emergency Strategy (OCEES) with partners across the city to support nature recovery by 2030:

The strategy’s four goals are:

  • To reduce consumption of products that undermine the health of wildlife and ecosystems around the world
  • For at least 30 per cent of land in Bristol to be managed for the benefit of wildlife
  • To reduce the use of pesticides in Bristol by at least 50 per cent
  • For all waterways to have excellent water quality which supports healthy wildlife 

As part of our waterways work on fish recovery, in partnership with Bristol Avon Rivers Trust (BART), we have carried out an exciting new pilot study in Bristol’s Floating Harbour and the River Avon. It uses environmental DNA (eDNA) a cutting edge technique to identify the species and communities of fish. And its o-fish-al, Bristol rivers are home to a wealth of rare fish. A summary report can be found here.

Sample locations for environmental DNA tests in Bristol's harbour, rivers, brooks, and canals

BART CEO, Simon Hunter said: “We sampled at ten different sites along the river across 2 different  seasons  over this year, with eDNA being collected and analysed at a laboratory using DNA sequencing. We were thrilled to find presence of Atlantic herring, mackerel and Atlantic salmon, European eel and plaice, Dover sole, brown trout and lamprey – all of which have been identified as priority species under the UK biodiversity Action Plan, which means they are threatened species and require conservation”.

“Furthermore, two species – European eel and Atlantic salmon are on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of threatened species”

This trailblazing study supports our OCEES goal of supporting healthy wildlife in our waterways and demonstrates the need for our rivers to be protected, rehabilitated and improved as an aquatic habitat. The scale(s) of opportunity will come to life with the start of our improving habitat project, which has recently been successful in our application to West of England Combined Authority’s Green Recovery Fund.

The council is also working with BART and other partners to develop a Bristol Avon Fish Recovery Strategy. This will guide our collective action to deliver better managed and connected watercourses in the Bristol Avon, making a vital contribution to a thriving natural freshwater environment, society and economy. The strategy will help to embed the value of rivers in decision-making across spatial planning, public health and economic development.

Bristol's waterways

While we carry out work to improve our city’s waterways for the benefit of wildlife, we also need global leaders to recognise the need for ambitious targets to put a stop to damaging practices and allow nature to recover and thrive once more.

This week sees COP15 – the UN biodiversity conference – take place in Montreal, Canada. COP15 will focus on new and ambitious global goals to transform the decline of nature by 2050. I’ll be watching the discussions at COP15 closely. All sessions at COP-15 will be streamed live at cbd.int/live and the main schedule is also available.

If you’re keen to help make space for nature in Bristol, you can find ideas and inspiration below:

Get involved – Bristol Avon Rivers Trust

We’re making space for nature – Bristol Climate Hub

Become a citizen scientist – Bristol Climate Hub

Green up your garden – Bristol Climate Hub

Get involved in nature recovery – Natural History Consortium  

Managing green spaces for nature (bristol.gov.uk)

Homepage | Avon Wildlife Trust

Get involved in your local park or green space – Parks Forum