MORE than 11,000 fish will be released into North-East rivers this week as part of a major restoration of the region’s waterways.

The Environment Agency will release three breeds of fish, which have been reared at the authority’s fish farm, into Clow Beck near Darlington; the River Wear in Durham and the River Tyne at Hexham to help boost the natural population.

It has produced 3,000 barbel and dace and 5,000 chub at its farm at Calverton, Nottinghamshire, where between 350,000 and 500,000 fish are produced to stock rivers across the country each year.

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Dace will also be stocked in the River Gaunless near Bishop Auckland as part of this Wednesday's release.

The agency is targeting rivers that have suffered from poor water quality and habitat degradation in the past, but have undergone a major clean up in recent months.

The Clow Beck flows into the River Tees near Darlington, and has recently had two fish passes constructed and two kilometres of habitat improvement for barbel and dace created by the Environment Agency and the Tees Rivers Trust.

The Environment Agency is restoring fish passage upon the River Gaunless by removing a redundant weir near Bishop Auckland that blocks the passage of species like dace, and the Wear Rivers Trust have carried out habitat improvement works to provide good fish cover and spawning.

The agency said the introduction of dace will help kick-start the recovery of the River Gaunless, which runs near West Auckland on the outskirts of Bishop Auckland.

Environment Agency fisheries officers Paul Frear and Robbie Stevenson will be introducing the fish to their new homes.

Mr Stevenson said: “We are pleased that we can provide these fish for stocking as part of our obligation to rod licence-paying anglers.

“Restoration and the creation of new fisheries for everyone to enjoy is a very important aspect to our work.”

The Environment Agency releases fish into the region’s waterways annually.

Fisheries officers target fish stocking activity using data from national fish surveys to identify where there are problems with poor breeding and survival.