Barnsley Biodiversity Action Plan. Post-15 BAP. Updated to 2023




Atlantic Salmon. Salmon became extinct in South Yorkshire rivers in the 19th century with the growth of industry, pollution of rivers, and weirs and other obstructions acting as barriers to fish coming upstream from the sea to spawn.

As river quality continues to improve and barriers to their passage are removed, Salmon can return and breed in Barnsley’s rivers. However Salmon numbers are generally at a very low level.

Atlantic Salmon are large fish with slender, silvery bodies with some dark crosses and spots on the head, body and fins. They are predators, feeding on invertebrates and small fish.

Salmon live in freshwater as juveniles but then migrate to sea to grow, for 1 to 4 years, to maturity, before returning to the river in which they hatched to spawn. Returning Salmon do not feed during their time in freshwater, rich feeding at sea providing them with sufficient reserves even for those fish returning in January but not spawning until late autumn.

Salmon spawn usually in November/December when cold water is carrying the most dissolved oxygen necessary for eggs to hatch. The females dig depressions, known as 'redds', in the gravel and then deposit their eggs which are fertilised by the male at the same time. Once hatched, the young spend between two and four years developing until, as silver ‘Smolt’, they travel downstream to the sea in the late spring.

Whilst most Salmon return to spawn to the rivers in which they were hatched, some Salmon explore other river systems which they then repopulate. These now include the Dearne and Don. Tighter environmental regulation, work by the Environment Agency, and investment in water quality by Water Companies, has resulted in much improved river water quality capable of supporting Salmon.

Measures to support the return of Salmon by removing the remaining weirs obstructing passage of fish or providing fish passes are being undertaken by Don River Catchment Trust, the Environment Agency and Yorkshire Water.

For further information on distribution, conservation and actions relating to Salmon and other local priority fish species follow the links below.

Atlantic Salmon, Salmo salar

Salmon is a Local Priority Species because of its national status and the potential for its return to Barnsley

Legal Protection

Regulated by the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act 1975 (as modified by the Water Act 1989, the Water Resources Act 1991 and the Environment Act 1995) and the Atlantic Salmon Act 1986 in conjunction with by-laws made under these pieces of legislation.


Salmon and Trout Conservation Salmon

Associated Habitats

Running water: rivers

Habitat requirements

In 2015 a juvenile Salmon was caught in the Dearne near Sprotborough, evidence of Salmon spawning in the River Dearne.

In 2019 an adult Salmon was found in Sheffield within two weirs of the upper reaches of the River Don.

Salmon jumping weir