Shad: Diving into the declining species

November 17, 2020

RSK Biocensus Associate Director Peter Walker has been published in InsideEcology, in which he takes a closer look at shad. This fish species, also known as the May fish, inhabits UK rivers, but numbers have declined significantly in recent years.

“Throughout my time as an aquatic ecologist, I have had some incredible opportunities and experiences while working with wildlife in both the UK and abroad,” Peter explains. “Several years ago, I was involved in a series of projects that provided an opportunity to work with shad. This enabled me to witness shad spawning behaviour in the River Usk, to battle adult fish on rod and line (thanks to a special project licence), and to see huge numbers of juvenile shad congregating in backwaters or marginal slacks on the rivers Wye and Usk during seine netting operations.”

The River Wye at Bigsweir River Wye at Bigsweir

The River Wye at Bigsweir

Peter’s article examines the two different shad species and their habitats, the reasons for the decline in numbers and what is being done to help.

“Like many of the UK’s fish species, shad have been heavily affected by people and their activities for decades and they continue to be so today,” says Peter. “Barriers to migration, habitat modifications, water quality issues (including runoff from agricultural land) and abstraction are all serious, ongoing problems that need addressing if shad and other native fish species are to thrive in our rivers.

“It is not all doom and gloom, however,” he continues. “Initiatives such as the Severn Rivers Trust’s ‘Unlocking the Severn’ project provide significant optimism about the future of UK shad populations. Other organisations, such as the Wye and Usk Foundation, also continue to lobby the government and water companies to act regarding water quality and abstraction issues. If successful, the actions of these organisations could result in positive changes that may, in turn, lead to a recovery of shad populations.”

If you would like to learn more about the species, you can read Peter’s full article on the Inside Ecology website.