MORE than 11,000 fish are to be released into North-East rivers tomorrow as part of a major restoration of the region’s waterways.

The Environment Agency will release three breeds of fish, which have been reared at the authority’s fish farm, into Clow Beck, near Darlington, the River Wear, near Durham City, and the River Tyne, at Hexham, Northumberland, to help boost the natural population.

The agency has produced 3,000 barbel and dace and 5,000 chub at its farm at Calverton, Nottinghamshire, where between 350,000 and 500,000 fish are produced to stock rivers across the country each year.

Dace will also be stocked in the River Gaunless, near Bishop Auckland, as part of this Wednesday’s release.

The agency is targeting rivers that have suffered from poor water quality and habitat degradation in the past, but have undergone a major clean-up in recent months.

The Clow Beck flows into the River Tees near Darlington and has recently had two fish passes constructed and two kilometres of habitat improvement for barbel and dace following work by the Environment Agency and Tees Rivers Trust.

The Environment Agency is restoring fish passage in the River Gaunless by removing a redundant weir near Bishop Auckland, which is blocking the passage of species such as dace. The Wear Rivers Trust has also carried out habitat improvement works to provide good fish cover and spawning.

The agency said the introduction of dace will help kickstart the recovery of the Gaunless, which flows near West Auckland on the outskirts of Bishop Auckland.

Environment Agency fisheries officers Paul Frear and Robbie Stevenson will release the fish into their new homes.

Mr Stevenson said: “We are pleased we can provide these fish for stocking as part of our obligation to rod licencepaying anglers.

“Restoration and the creation of new fisheries for everyone to enjoy is a very important aspect to our work.”

The Environment Agency releases fish into the region’s waterways annually.

Fisheries officers target fish stocking activity using data from national fish surveys to identify where there are problems with poor breeding and survival.