THE first migratory fish in 150 years have returned to a waterway after work to remove barriers.

Culverts and weirs on Brancepeth Beck in County Durham have been altered to allow fish to make their way unhindered upstream.

The Wear Rivers Trust has been working with Brancepeth Castle, Brancepeth Estate and Brancepeth Castle Golf Club on a project funded by the Environment Agency to modify obstacles.

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Volunteers have been monitoring sites along the Brancepeth Beck during the last two months and have confirmed that fish have now been seen to be using the fish passes.

It is hoped that fish populations will now increase along the Brancepeth Beck catchment as more fish are able to reach their spawning grounds.

Steve Hudson, Project Officer at the Wear Rivers Trust, said: “The project was developed four years ago by volunteers who helped us survey this catchment for issues which might be having an impact on fish populations.

“The same volunteers are now helping to deliver and monitor the success of the project and it really is amazing to see all of our hard work paying off.”

Trust volunteer Jim Wood added: “Having been involved with the project from the very start I am over the moon to see what we have delivered is working so well.

Paul Frear, from the Environment Agency, said: “It really is a fantastic achievement to see fish back in a location they haven’t been seen for 150 years, and shows just what can be done when everyone works together.

“It’s remarkable how quickly fish stocks can start to recover once we remove obstructions.”