AROUND 360,000 salmon and 20,000 sea trout were released into the tributaries of the River Tyne this year as Kielder Salmon Centre celebrated its 40th anniversary.

The centre was built in 1978 to compensate for the building of Kielder reservoir.

This year has also seen it create a new £100,000 visitor centre which opened to the public in September as the centre focused on becoming an education and conservation centre of excellence.

This received the royal seal of approval during a visit by the Prince of Wales the same month.

Richard Bond, who has been the centre’s hatchery manager since 2005 said: “Over the 40 years we have released millions of salmon and sea trout into the River Tyne’s tributaries to compensate for the fact they cannot reach their natural spawning grounds.

“The river is now one of the best salmon rivers in the country.

“It is a real success story and one which has happened for a number of reasons, predominantly due to improvements in water quality as well as work by ourselves and our partners to make improvements to fish passage and habitat.”

Through the centre, the Environment Agency works on academic research projects, including innovative work to hand rear one of the UK’s most endangered species, the freshwater pearl mussel.

Richard added: “The new visitor centre has created a more interactive experience for visitors and allows them to get up close with species we aim to protect – including the iconic salmon and the critically endangered freshwater pearl mussel. It gives people the chance to understand the fascinating world that lies below the surface of the river.”

Kielder reservoir plays an important role in preserving drinking water for the North-East as well as supporting other issues along the River Tyne.

Phil Rippon, fisheries technical specialist for the Environment Agency in the North-East said: “We continuously monitor the oxygen levels in the estuary during conditions such as we saw this summer and do what we can to help migrating fish reach their spawning grounds.

“This includes additional releases of water from Kielder reservoir to increase freshwater flows.

“These additional releases have undoubtedly saved many salmon in 2018.”

The Environment Agency will continue to work with Northumbrian Water to monitor the conditions in the Tyne estuary.