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Esk and Coastal Streams Catchment Partnership

River EskRiver Esk

The Partnership

Summary of Partnership

The Esk and Coastal Streams Catchment Partnership (ECSCP) is one of 100+ catchment partnerships across the country who are part of the Catchment Based Approach (CaBA). DEFRA rolled out the CaBA idea across the UK in 2013, promoting the need to work together to protect and improve our precious water environments, with particular focus on sharing the knowledge, skills and expertise of local people and organisations. CaBA embeds collaborative working at a river catchment scale, delivering a range of environmental, social and economic benefits. The North York Moors National Park Authority is the appointed host for the ECSCP, which was established in 2014.

For full details of the partnership and CaBA projects please see the Catchment Based Approach Website

Key Aims and Objectives

ECSCP Partners, including Yorkshire Water, the Environment Agency, the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and many more, 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:

  1. 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.
  2. Reduce the impact of man-made structures in the water environment, supporting migratory species and habitat connectivity
  3. Create and improve habitat, supporting species resilience, including woodland and peat restoration.
  4. Managing and controlling invasive non-native species.
  5. Support and sustainably manage a healthy population of native fish species.
  6. Protect and improve our Yorkshire Coastal Water Bodies through effective management of coastal streams and estuaries.

2. Water Level Management - harnessing natural flood processes to create a more naturally functioning river, reduce flood risk and preserve water resources.

3. 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.

4. Ensure good partnership collaboration, governance and develop a robust evidence base for project delivery.

The Esk and Coastal Streams Catchment

Summary of the Catchment

The River Esk is one of North Yorkshire’s principle salmon and sea trout rivers and more crucially, supports a small and endangered population of freshwater pearl mussels, the last remaining in Yorkshire (hyperlink to Pearl Mussel and Salmon Recovery work webpage). The river is 28 miles in length and comprises of a wide range of habitats rising in the “Esklets” in the North York Moors and flowing through a patchwork of heather moorland, mixed woodland and farmland before it meets the sea at Whitby estuary.

The catchment has a drainage area of 362km2, and encompasses 22 waterbodies. The catchment is home to sites of national & international importance for wildlife, with extensive areas of the upper catchment designated as a special area of conservation. The coastline to the north and south of Whitby is of ecological and geological importance and has been designated as a Heritage Coast Site.

Map showing the catchment area


Sample summary of our key project

Freshwater Pearl Mussels

The Esk’s freshwater pearl mussel population is crucially important and most of the projects delivered through the partnership are for the improvement of both habitat and water quality which will in turn allow us to not only conserve and protect our remaining population but also reach a stage where the partnership can reintroduce the juveniles currently held at the Freshwater Biological Association’s captive breeding program. In addition to creating a FWPM working group, a 4 phase large scale initiative for the conservation of the Esk’s FWMP population is being envisaged.

Pearl Mussel

Coastal Streams Restoration Project

This project aims to improve coastal streams within the catchment, by improving water quality and easing passage upstream for migratory fish. Staithes Beck has been identified for improvements to fish passage whilst agri-diffused pollution will be addressed along Sandsend Beck.

Esk Restoration Project & Water Environment Grant

This project has two main objectives; to work with farmers and land managers to improve water quality through farm infrastructure capital grant programme, introduction of Natural Flood Management and improved farm practices to reduce sedimentation and pollution, and to control invasive non-native plants in the upper and middle reaches of the Esk.

Better Esk Estuary and Coastal Habitats (BEACH) Esk

A partnership project in collaboration with the Esk Catchment Partnership, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, North York Moors Park Authority, EA Marine team and Groundwork. The Project aims to reduce pollution and fouling (from marine / fishing industry and restaurant waste), reduce terrestrial diffused pollution in the tributaries and create new habitat within the estuary.

Blue Corridors

A multi catchment scale project covering the rivers Esk and Rye. The project is working to improve the ability of fish to pass in-stream structures, to control invasive non-native species focussing on Japanese knotweed and Himalayan balsam, and to improve and reinstate public rights of way.

Juvenile Salmonid program

Survey work on the River EskAn annual survey program comprised of data from our partners which contributes to the wider Esk data set. The ECSCP in-house monitoring sites are situated in the upper catchment and surveyed by the CaBA officer and NYMNPA volunteers. Hull International Fisheries Institute (HIFI) conduct surveying in the lower catchment along the Murk Esk tributary whilst the Environment Agency add to this data set through their annual program of sites situated throughout the Esk. All these data aid in monitoring salmonid populations as key indicator species.

Freshwater Invertebrate Monitoring

Riverfly monitoring program, coordinated by the CaBA officer and utilising our dedicated team of volunteers. Sites are situated throughout the catchment. Riverfly are key indicator species with the program used to investigate point and diffused pollution sources. This is complementary to our juvenile salmonid program. As of 2020 the partnership has 26 participating volunteers each with an allocated site.

Invasive Non-Native Species treatment program

Invasive Non-Native Species annual control program delivered through our Esk restoration project and Blue Corridor’s fund. The program targets Japanese knotweed and Himalayan balsam and if fulfilled by contractors. The aim is to eventually eradicate the species entirely from the catchment. Atotal of 35 and 34 landowners are engaged on an annual basis for Himalayan balsam and Japanese knotweed respectively. Treatment has been successful for 2020; both species have a sparse but wide coverage of 18km in the lower catchment from Glaisdale to Ruswarp, however, from the 2020 Japanese knotweed treatment program there was a 50% reduction in coverage.

Useful links and information

Esk and Coastal Streams Catchment Partnership revised Management Plan

Catchment Based Approach Website

Catchment Data Explorer


Sarah Lonsdale, Catchment Partnership Officer

01439 772599