Twaite Shad

A Protected Species in the UK

Shad are a protected species in the UK because they are so rare. Allis and twaite shad are the only members of the herring family found in freshwater in the UK. They have various other names including the May Fish, King of the Herring, and Bony Horseman.

Shad were once widely fished in Europe and were formerly eaten in Britain.

Family Ties

Twaite Shad are members of the herring family Clupeidae.

They are anadromous fishes, which means they spend the majority of their adult lives at sea and migrate up coastal rivers in the spring to spawn in freshwater.

A second type of shad, the allis shad (Alosa alosa), is also occasionally found in the Firth of Forth.

Both species look very like large herring, but they are distinguishable by having a distinctive row of black spots along their sides.

Twaite Shad on the River Severn

As part of a multi million pound project “Unlocking the Severn” to restore access to 158 miles of water, in 2019 scientists on the River Severn reported a sighting of the Shad – one of Britain’s rarest fish.

Once a popular source of food, employment and trade, the Shad all but disappeared from the River Severn in 1844 after man-made structures such as wiers made it difficult for them to return to their spawning grounds.

The project aims to make it easier for the Shad to access their historic natural breeding ground in the Severn’s upper reaches.

Shad restoration projects elsewhere in the world have been successful, allowing fish to return and thrive with a knock on beneficial effect for the river and its ecosystem.

More about the project

Did you know?

  • Shad will live 8-10 years and spawn up to 5 times in their lifetime.
  • Shad were the first fish species to be protected in the UK – they were a popular food with Royals and locals alike!
  • Unlike Salmon, Shad are unable to navigate weirs and large boulders as they cannot leap around obstacles.

Visiting the Unlocking the Severn Exhibition

An “Unlocking the Severn” exhibition has been created that tells the story of the Shad on the River Severn and has interactive displays about the Shad lifecycle and the challenges they have to negotiate.

The exhibition is currently on at the Jackfield Tile Museum, from 10am to 4pm until February 28, 2021. It will then visit The Hive, Worcester in May and June 2021 before moving to Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery in summer 2021.

Exhibition Details

Local Accommodation

Severn Heaven Package

A leading local hotel – The Worcester Whitehouse – have created a special accomodation package for visitors to the area. Visit the exhibition and explore the banks of the Severn, then relax in comfort in the heart of Worcester.

More about the package

Give us your thoughts!

If you’ve visited the exhibition, or just been to the Severn to try and spot Shad, let us know how you found it.

  • Haven't had a chance to visit the exhibition due to the lockdown, but really looking forward to it later in 2021!

    G. Richardson, Feb 2021