A tale of sink or swim

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A MAN who grew up in North Broomhill has told his story of salmon conservation success against all odds.

‘Swimming Against the Tide’ details the pioneering hatchery work of Peter Gray at Kielder and his great achievements in dramatically improving the stocks of salmon on the Tyne.

Stocks of the fish were very low in the 1960s and 70s, but the efforts of Mr Gray and his team to produce strong swimmers has helped the river to make the biggest recovery in the UK and Europe – a total of 5,000 were caught from it last year.

He said: “We worked very hard to try and produce salmon of exactly the same type as those that are bred in the river.

“My main motive is to offer hope to the host of people on both sides of the North Atlantic who desperately want to restore the fortunes of their depleted salmon rivers.

“Those who have seen the way the Tyne came back from the dead already want to follow its example but there are many others who should be told how it was done.”

Mr Gray did various jobs as a young adult, including a stint as a gamekeeper at High Park Farm near Felton, before he was offered a position to develop salmon at Reivers Well Hatchery in Rothbury.

He then moved to the Kielder Salmon Hatchery when it opened in 1978 and was manager there until 2005 when he retired. He now does consultancy work and presentations across the UK.

“When I started at Reivers Well, no-one else had done this sort of thing in the region and possibly across the world so I had to learn on the job,” said Mr Gray.

“At one point I had to pick up 18 stones of liver from Morpeth, then cut it up and liquidise it to feed the salmon.

“Thankfully things had moved on by the time I went to Kielder, but it was a much bigger operation to manage as we had five million gallons of water a day compared to 80,000 gallons a day at Reivers Well.

“We had a specific programme in place to build up their muscle texture so they would be strong enough to survive in the river.”

He added that he believes the Environment Agency can do more to boost salmon numbers on the Tyne, which would benefit the natural environment in the area.

All this and much more is described in the book, priced £29 hardback, which is available on order from book shops and online at www.medlarpress.com and Amazon.

There will be a book signing session with Mr Gray on Saturday at 12.30pm at Northern Football Club in Gosforth.