Unlocking the Severn for LIFE - LIFE - Shad Severn: Conservation and restoration of twaite shad in the Severn Estuary Special Area of Conservation

LIFE15 NAT/UK/000219

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Contact details:

Contact person: Morris Mike
Tel: 07970451601
Email: mike@severnriverstrust.com

Project description:


Prior to the mid-19th Century, twaite shad (Alosa fallax) was an economically important species in the Severn river basin. Within three years of the installation of navigation weirs fishing ceased. In the UK’s third report on the Habitats Directive, the UK Atlantic bioregion conservation status for Twaite shad is identified under Article 17 as “unfavourable inadequate – improving” (due to recent fish passage improvements on other Natura 2000 network sites). The overall assessment is “inadequate” because of the impact on range and population of barriers to migration.

The Severn estuary and Bristol Channel are an important habitat for juvenile and adult twaite shad.

Open migration between the adult and juvenile habitats in the estuaries and spawning freshwater rivers is critical. At maturity, twaite shad stop feeding and gather in the estuaries of suitable rivers in late spring, moving upstream to spawn from mid-May to mid-July. Spawning takes place in water flowing over stones and gravel, among which the eggs sink. The young fish move downstream in the current to the quieter waters of the upper estuary where they start to feed and grow. Currently, the species is unable to migrate further upriver than Worcester on both rivers Severn and Teme, reducing its spawning range to approximately 20 km rather than the 273 km total historic range. The suitability of habitat upriver means that removal of barriers at Worcester would significantly increase the range of the species.


The LIFE-Shad Severn project will improve access up and down the two key rivers for this species associated with the Severn Estuary Special Area of Conservation (SAC), directly impacting 57% of the UK’s potential breeding stock and increasing access to favourable spawning and juvenile habitat by 195%, through the removal of seven barriers to migration upstream of the Severn Estuary Natura 2000 network site.

The objective of this project is to undertake work on two major rivers to secure a development towards favourable conservation status of the population of twaite shad in the Severn Estuary SAC by significantly improving access for the population of twaite shad to quality spawning and nursery habitat and re-establishing access to 253 km of the former natural range of the species in the rivers Severn and Teme will be a step towards “favourable” conservation status.

The project will benefit the UK’s spawning population and the overall conservation status of the Natura 2000 network as the long term population expansion will benefit other catchments, including the Usk, Wye, Afon Tywi, Carmarthen Bay and estuaries and the Pembrokeshire Marine SAC. Barriers to migration mean the status of the twaite shad is “unfavourable bad and deteriorating” in other EU bioregions, so there are good opportunities for transfer of project outcomes to these regions.

Expected results: The project expects to achieve the following results:

  • By 2020, fish access is provided for twaite shade across five artificial structures on the river Severn opening 190 km of historic spawning and nursery habitat associated with the Severn Estuary SAC;
  • By 2019, fish access is provided for twaite shad at two artificial structures on the River Teme, opening 63 km of historic spawning habitat associated with the Severn Estuary SAC;
  • By 2021, the twaite shad is present, and suitably protected, above Lincomb Weir on the Severn and Knightsford Weir on the Teme. The number of individuals in the mid-reaches of the Severn and lower Teme increase from nil in 2015 to 50 in 2021 (and 200 by 2025), and the number of twaite shad spawning locations on the mid-Severn and lower Teme increase from nil to 5 by 2021 (and 20 by 2025);
  • By 2021, local communities understand the biological value and potential social and economic value of twaite shad, the river and the Natura 2000 network site through a series of events and dissemination actions that engage more than 8 million people;
  • By 2017, long-term monitoring is established to effectively assess twaite shad populations and connectivity in the Severn and Teme; and
  • By 2021, effective transnational exchange of best practice is established on twaite shad populations across its range in Europe. Project actions lead to the transfer of replicable actions to instigate similar projects across the Atlantic, Mediterranean, Continental and Boreal bioregions.



Environmental issues addressed:


Species - Fish


migratory species‚  monitoring‚  renaturation‚  river‚  population dynamics‚  river management

Target EU Legislation

  • Nature protection and Biodiversity
  • Directive 92/43 - Conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora- Habitats Directiv ...

Target species

 Alosa fallax     

Natura 2000 sites

SPA UK9015022 Severn Estuary
SCI UK0013030 Severn Estuary/ Môr Hafren



Coordinator Canal& River Trust (CRT)
Type of organisation NGO-Foundation
Description The Severn Rivers Trust is an independent environmental charity established to secure the preservation, protection, development and improvement of the rivers, streams, watercourses and waterbodies in the Severn catchment. It works across the region on a variety of projects including the education of young people, habitat creation and sustainable environmental protection. The Trust is a member of the UK-wide Rivers Trust movement. The Trust is the only organisation managing projects across the entire Severn river basin and is therefore the only organisation capable of coordinating this multi-site project. The Trust has extensive experience managing fish passage, community and monitoring projects across the river Severn and river Teme. It is a member of the UK-wide Rivers Trust.
Partners Canal & River Trust, United Kingdom Environment Agency, United Kingdom


Project reference LIFE15 NAT/UK/000219
Duration 11-JUL-2016 to 30-SEP -2021
Total budget 25,991,094.00 €
EU contribution 7,778,396.00 €
Project location West Midlands(United Kingdom)


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Project web site Project's webpage (temporary)


Project description   Environmental issues   Beneficiaries   Administrative data   Read more   Print   PDF version