Freight barge blamed for 100 fish deaths

Published: Wednesday, 19 January 2022

FREIGHT on a section of the Aire & Calder has been suspended as blamed for fish deaths.

Canal & River Trust has taken the decision to temporarily suspend freight traffic on the Aire & Calder Navigation as investigations continue into the harm it states is being caused to wildlife by the Angling Trust.

Fish deaths

It  reports that a significant number of fish deaths have occurred in a localised stretch of the navigation at Knottingley, and whilst commercial barges have been limited to slower speeds and reduced loads in the past few weeks, the impact to fish has continued without explanation.

The Angling Trust maintain that the first freight passage post Christmas estimated it sighted around 100 fish deaths following the commercial passage, with Sean McGinley, Director Yorkshire & North East explaining:


“It is a priority to complete our investigation to establish why, on this short stretch of the navigation, fish are being harmed in this way.

"Whilst there are environmental benefits of barge traffic in taking lorries off the region’s roads, we are told by the operators that to reduce load sizes further would make passage uneconomic. While we have taken the difficult decision to temporarily suspend freight, we will continue to work with freight operators as part of our investigations. A series of pre-arranged, carefully monitored passages to determine and subsequently avert the impact of freight vessels on wildlife will continue alongside sampling to identify the presence of any toxins.”

However the trust closed its freight section early in its reign, with attempted freight on the canals proving very difficult owing to the lack of dredging to accomodate the deeper draughts of the boats.