A SEA trout has been caught in the River Leven for the first time since the Industrial Revolution, marking a huge milestone in efforts to bring migratory fish back to the area.

Environment Agency (EA) data shows that migratory fish are returning the river, which is a tributary of the River Tees in the Yarm area, after decades of absence.

Water quality in the River Tees, following the Industrial Revolution, used to be so bad that fish could not live in it but the EA and its partners have worked hard to improve water quality and ensure that fish can move upstream.

The work involved the construction of a fish pass on the lower River Leven in 2007, allowing fish to reach spawning grounds upstream.

The catch on the Leven comes after a fisheries survey in 2010 recorded a salmon in the river.

Paul Frear, fisheries technical officer at the EA, said: “I’m really excited about this catch. There have been rumours among anglers that sea trout are back in the Leven, but now we have cast-iron proof.

“We constructed a fish pass on the lower River Leven in 2007 that would allow fish from the River Tees to return to spawning grounds on the upper Leven, which had previously been cut-off for over a century.

“Salmon and sea trout are in important part of our rivers’ ecology and they are a valuable economic fish stock – so this is fantastic news for the North-East.”