The stunning 27 species of fish found in River Severn – and a family of curious otters  

11th December 2023

They are the magical photos and videos showing the 27 stunning varieties of fish in the River Severn – alongside a family of curious otters.

Diglis Fish Pass was built in Worcester as part of the Unlocking the Severn Project to help the marine populations navigate Victorian-built weirs during migrations upstream to spawn, including the endangered twaite shad.

A unique underground viewing gallery allows visitors, including schoolkids, to see what lies beneath the water. Severn Trent was among the partners in the scheme after providing crucial access to the site, opposite its water treatment plant. 

Now project leaders the Severn Rivers Trust and the Canal & River Trust have revealed underwater cameras have so far captured an astonishing 27 varieties of fish, including pike, salmon, bream, carp, trout, chub, barbel and perch.

Since opening to the public two years ago, some lucky visitors have also spotted a rare family of inquisitive otters living near the Diglish Fish Pass, through the  underwater viewing window.

Alice Fallon, from the Severn Rivers Trust charity, said: “It’s wonderful. People can go down and stand in the chamber and see fish swimming past the window - a very exciting and unique experience.

“Diglis Fish Pass been great for public engagement as well. We run school visits and public open days, so people can actually come in and see the site for themselves and hopefully see the fish.

“We know that the river is a really important eco-system and the cameras were set up to try and understand which species of fish are using the river and their behaviours. So far we have captured 27 varieties of fish, which is amazing. 

“There is also a family of otters who have been seen on camera - another sign of a healthy river because that shows there are enough fish to sustain them.”

The scheme was funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the European Union LIFE Programme and saw four fish passes built along the Severn, from Worcester to Stourport.

Severn Trent provided vital access for the construction of the 100m long Diglis Fish Pass, which is a set of concrete steps to allow the fish to navigate past the weir. Other fish passes have been built along the 220-mile long River Severn as part of the scheme, which has proved hugely successful in helping twaite shad and other fish migrate upriver.

Alice said: “It was an innovative partnership project, nothing like this had ever been done before.

“The construction works was incredibly complex – it was an epic feat of engineering.

“The main thing was access to the site because it was really complex geology and geography and Severn Trent helped with that.

“We are lucky to be able to work with such a forward-thinking water company like Severn Trent.”

Corinne Spiller, from the Canal & River Trust, said: “Unlocking the Severn was an incredible collaborative project to help restore a once-renowned species of fish to the River Severn.

“We are delighted that our fish passes at Diglis, Bevere, Holt and Lincomb have now provided access for the twaite shad to key spawning habitats, as well as reconnecting 158 miles of river for a whole host of fish species.

“Community engagement has also been a vital part of the project and its legacy, and we are proud to have welcomed over 15,000 visitors to our new visitor sites at Diglis in Worcester, to learn more about the amazing fish in our River Severn.”

Severn Trent has a team of River Rangers who cover the region, working closely with a variety of partners to help improve the health of our waterways.

Gareth Mead, team manager of the River Rangers, said: “It is wonderful to hear so many varieties of fish have been caught on camera at the Diglis Fish Pass. Improving river health is a priority for Severn Trent, which is why we were delighted to help even with site access for this project.

“We take our responsibilities towards river health very seriously and we’re delivering an industry-leading plan that includes bold commitments, such as by 2030 we will cause no harm from our storm overflow operations.

“In the last year, we’ve already reduced our impact on waterways by a third. However, we know there’s more to do, which is why we’re continuing to invest hundreds of millions of pounds into making rivers the healthiest they can be.”

*Visits to the Diglis Fish Pass and underwater viewing gallery can be booked via the Unlocking the Severn website during March and October. Unlocking the Severn was delivered by Canal & River Trust via partnership with Severn Rivers Trust, the Environment Agency and Natural England and was made possible with funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the European Union LIFE programme.