South Leeds resident Paul Ibbotson has compiled this guest post for South Leeds Life about Atlantic salmon in the River Aire…
Atlantic salmon should soon be passing through Leeds to spawning grounds that have not been used since the industrial revolution.
Leeds City Council are to install fish passes and leaps on the River Aire to enable the fish to make the journey through the heart of Leeds.
Salmon have already been seen in the lower stretches of the Aire at South Leeds around Thwaites Mill.
Fish passes are a natural spectacle and a real draw for tourists, increasing the fish population and will attract more anglers and tourists.
The return of these majestic fish marks the vastly improved condition of our river after almost two centuries of industrial and domestic pollution which left most stretches completely lifeless.
The River Aire starts as a healthy dales watercourse above Malham, but from the early days of the industrial revolution it was used as a dumping ground for for the waste of West Yorkshire. In the late 20th century the damage continued with Yorkshire’s sewage treatment plants at Esholt, serving Bradford and Knostrop, serving Leeds by dumping effluent into the river.
In the 1990’s the Yorkshire Evening Post was at the heart of a campaign to pursuede Yorkshire Water to stop poisoning the river.
A campaign group ‘Eye on the Aire’ brought together more than 30 organisations ranging from angler and canoeist groups to conservation, environment and community organisations plus Leeds City Council and companies whose works border the river.
From 1990 to 1994 the YEP publicised the campaign and backed demands for Yorkshire water to install extra treatment and filtration processes Yorkshire water finally allocated the investment needed for the improvements.
Today the most sensitive of fish now thrive in the river, otters and herons have returned bird watchers can now again admire kingfishers in their sky blue plumage catching minnows for their nestlings.
If we can open up the river paths it would be possible to walk through our city and into the beautiful Dales to the source of the river at Malham.
NOTE: Parts of this article have been sourced from the Yorkshire Evening Post, which for years nobley championed the campaign for a cleaner river. A couple of months ago the legendary Pete Lazenby reported for the Guardian on how the clean-up of this once-polluted river shows how communities can be the driving force behind protecting our environment. In June the BBC reported Environment Agency officials were to follow the course of the River Aire as it flows under Leeds railway station to find out how migrating fish navigate the watercourse.