River Esk and Coastal Streams Catchment Partnership

Esk & Coast | Humber

Contact Information

Catchment Host

North York Moors National Park Trust and North York Moors National Park Authority (joint hosts)


Sarah Lonsdale






North York Moors National Park Trust
The Old Vicarage
YO62 5BP

Catchment Website


The Aims of Our Partnership

Our vision is to create a healthy, resilient and wildlife rich environment within the Esk & Coastal Streams Catchment, that will bring both social and economic benefits to all.

Aims and Objectives

ECSCP Partners seek to work on a collaborative basis in the pursuit of the Partnership’s shared aims;

  1. Water Quality and Environment –Working with land managers, organisations and interested bodies to improve the aquatic habitat of the ECSCP, and the rare and threatened species that the river and wider landscape supports. Achieve a better than good water quality status for the Esk. Key priorities for ECSCP are:
    • Improving water quality by reducing sedimentation and diffused pollution from agriculture and rural land-use activities, and working with water companies to improve sewage treatment and combined sewer overflows.
    • Reduce the impact of man-made structures in the water environment, supporting migratory species and habitat connectivity
    • Create and improve habitat, supporting species resilience, including woodland and peat restoration.
    • Managing and controlling invasive non-native species.
    • Support and sustainably manage a healthy population of native fish species.
    • Protect and improve our Yorkshire Coastal Water Bodies through effective management of coastal streams and estuaries.
  1. Water Level Management – harnessing natural flood processes to create a more naturally functioning river, reduce flood risk and preserve water resources.
  2. Reconnecting People – improving understanding of the river landscape by telling the story of its evolution and encouraging people to protect their heritage, promoting volunteering opportunities.
  3. Ensure good partnership collaboration, governance and develop a robust evidence base for project delivery.

The Partnership

The North York Moors National Park Trust and the North York Moors National Park Authority are the appointed joint hosts of the Esk and Coastal Streams Catchment Partnership. Working in official partnership to improve the catchments health and ecology for the future. A steering group was established with key organisations such as the Environment Agency, Esk Valley Farmers (Countryside Stewardship Facilitation Fund), Forestry England, Freshwater Biological Association, Natural England, Scarborough Borough Council, Yorkshire Esk Fisheries Group, Yorkshire Water and Yorkshire Wildlife Trust.

Our River Esk & Coastal Streams Catchment management plan (see below) was first produced in November 2020, highlighting and prioritising important conservation issues in the Esk Catchment.

About Our Catchment

The river Esk is one of North Yorkshires premier salmon and trout rivers, rising between Baysdale and Westerdale in an area known as the Esklets. From there it flows 28 miles through the North York Moors National Park, where it joins the North Sea at Whitby. On its way to its eventual destination, the river flows almost entirely though the national park, flowing through a varied landscape of upland wild heather moorland, deep wooded valleys and quaint traditional stone built villages.

It is home to a variety of flora and fauna with some nationally important species such as atlantic salmon, brown trout, grayling, brook lamprey, sand martins, dippers, kingfishers, water voles and otters. In addition to these the Esk is the only river in all of Yorkshire and one of only seven nationally to hold the extremely rare and fascinating freshwater pearl mussel.

Partnership Projects

Freshwater Pearl Mussels

The freshwater pearl mussel (Margaritifera margaritifera) in one of the longest lived invertebrates in the world, living well in excess of 100 years. Historically abundant and very widespread throughout England and Wales, the species has sadly severely declined and is now listed as critically endangered with it’s remaining populations on the brink of extinction.

Why are they on the decline?

  • Degradation of habitat caused by sedimentation of substrate gravels
  • Issues with water quality such as high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus (eutrophication)
  • Declining populations of host species (salmon and trout)
  • The historic and sadly, modern pearl fishing and poaching.

The river Esk’s mussels are the last surviving population in all Yorkshire, with only a small number left. Our mussels haven’t produced offspring in over 40 years, with the likelihood that they may die out within the next 25-30 years unless actions are made to bring them back from the brink.

What is being done?

The Esk & Coastal Streams Catchment Partnership are working together with our partners, local land managers and volunteers on a variety of different projects.

There has been much work done at the Freshwater Biological Association over the last 12+ years, this has involved translocating several adult FWPM from the Esk to a specially designed captive breeding facility. The facility provides an “ark” to better protect our declining number of mussels and to also help rear juveniles through an extensive captive breeding program, waiting until they are ready for reintroductions in the future.

Yorkshire water and partners have worked extensively at reviewing the Esk’s water quality and has been assessing habitat suitability.

We also have a dedicated group of volunteers who take part in group tasking days aimed at reducing diffused pollution, sedimentation and improving riparian habitat through a variety of ways, including riparian fencing, creation of buffer strips, tree planting and bank restorations and stabilisations. These techniques are also key to conserving the mussels host species of salmon and trout, which are vital for the life cycle of the mussel.

Blue Corridors

Blue corridors is a multi-catchment project covering the River Esk as well as the River Rye. The project aims to improve fish migration up-stream through the removal or modification of multiple identified obstacles. Additionally, Blue Corridors is working to combat the spread of INNS including Himalayan Balsam and Japanese Knotweed.

What is the problem?

River obstacles, both natural and manmade, can severely impact the localised movement of fish species within rivers and, in the case of some salmonids and the European eel, the migration between rivers and the sea. These barriers to movement can have severe consequences for populations of fish by limiting their ability to move between
feeding and spawning grounds. Because of this, river obstacles are considered one of the major threats to populations of some fish species in the UK.

Invasive plant species also impact upon salmonids by decreasing the suitability of fish spawning grounds. Himalayan Balsam and Japanese Knotweed growing along rivers can cause the banks to become exposed by out-competing native vegetation. Exposed banks are vulnerable to erosion and increase sediment input into rivers. Increased sediment in the River Esk can suffocate gravel beds, the main spawning habitat of Atlantic Salmon and Sea Trout. Furthermore, reduced sediment and increase water quality also benefits our valuable and vulnerable population of Freshwater Pearl Mussels.

What is being done?

Blue corridors aims to restore and reconnect the River Esk by removing or modifying culvert, weirs, dams, fords and bridges that pose a threat to fish migration, opening up the River Esk to fish migration.  Plans are in place to completely remove identified structures, replace them with more passable structures or modify them using fish passes to aid movement up-stream.

INNS work is being carried out through appointment of contractors for larger areas of Himalayan Balsam and Japanese knotweed, and volunteers for smaller patches. Control includes pulling of Himalayan balsam and stem injection to combat Japanese knotweed. INNS control not only has benefits for native vegetation but also prevents further bank erosion and reduces sediment input into the River Esk. In turn, this will improve the water quality of the River Esk and prevent vital salmonid spawning habitat from becoming suffocated.

The project has recently funded over 30 volunteers in either electro-fishing or riverfly monitoring training. The Esk  has a dedicated group of individuals who help out with electro-fishing surveys. These surveys help the partnership to understand the Esk’s population of fish and to monitor the effects of obstacles and their removal. A significant group of volunteers also carry out riverfly surveys with each individual appointed their own monitoring site. These surveys help the partnership to keep a keen eye on the water quality of the river and highlight any issues within the catchment that need addressing.



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