River Wear fish protected from birds by 'hedgehogs'
Devices called hedgehogs are coming to the rescue of fish in the River Wear in the first project of its kind in an English river, according to the Environment Agency.
Conservationists have placed 12 spikey, plastic refuges in the river near Prebends Bridge in Durham to give fish places to hide from predators.
The devices create a network of hiding places when secured to the riverbed.
They are being used due to concerns fish are being taken by cormorants.
The devices, which are 1m in diameter, have been placed in deeper sections of the river so as not to interfere with boat traffic, rowers or canoeists.
Paul Frear, fisheries officer at the Environment Agency, said: "Local anglers are very concerned that fish numbers continue to be affected by cormorants in Durham.
"We wanted to try a new approach, that will help protect fish stocks without targeting the cormorants.
"The hedgehogs will really help boost fish numbers as they will prevent cormorants from catching important coarse fish and trout.
"Our research has shown that if it takes a lot longer for cormorants to find their food, their numbers in that area should reduce."
John Hepworth, from Durham City Angling Club, said: "Only five years ago the River Wear attracted anglers from almost every corner of the country, but today there are fewer anglers because fish numbers have been depleted.
"These refuges are much needed and will help to protect and restore the Wear's silver fish populations back to what they were."