Freshwater environments threatened by farmyard slurry
Fisheries charity Salmon & Trout Conservation Cymru have reacted with dismay at yet another major river pollution incident in Wales, which saw up to 450,000 litres (99,000 gallons) of slurry leaked into a tributary of the River Honddu near Abergavenny.
It is feared that this could also impact on the Wye and Monnow and their populations of species of European conservation status such as bullheads and brook lampreys.
Sadly, this is not the first incident of its type.
In February, a slurry spill into the Gwili in Carmarthenshire killed trout, lamprey and bullheads and in In December, 2016, a spill from a bio-digester plant reached the Teifi killing more than a thousand trout and salmon along a five mile stretch of the river.
Regrettably, many more slurry or silage based pollution incidents have been recorded but not widely reported. It is estimated that agricultural pollution affects some 180 individual waterbodies in Wales and the number of pollution incidents caused by dairy and beef farms across the country has fluctuated between 85 and 120 for each of the last six years.
Richard Garner Williams, National Officer for S&TC Cymru, voiced his frustration at the growing record of such incidents, “In reality, virtually all rivers in Wales are subject to a greater or lesser degree of risk from this kind of pollution. On the one hand, increased market pressures means the agricultural industry is suffering from a lack of investment in adequate waste management while, on the other, regulatory bodies are unable to fully enforce statutory requirements due to reduced governmental funding. When the inevitable happens, it is the freshwater environment that pays the price.”
Meanwhile, other sectors such as rivers trusts and fisheries and conservation charities, who have spent years attempting to restore Welsh rivers, are picking up the consequences and associated costs. Richard continues, “The ecological status of many of our rivers is nowhere near where we would like them to be. It is vital that the Welsh Government makes far greater effort to promote truly sustainable agricultural practices in Wales if any further deterioration is to be avoided. Only if this is done can we preserve the wildlife of the freshwater environment for the enjoyment of future generations.”
Richard Garner Williams concludes, “Natural Resources Wales needs the backing of Welsh Government and adequate resources to effectively enforce regulations to tackle the problems caused by both chronic and acute agricultural pollution. It is critical that we build a robust and well-resourced enforcement system based on high minimum standards, otherwise we face further disastrous deterioration of our rivers and their precious wildlife.”
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Notes to editors:
Salmon & Trout Conservation UK (S&TC UK) was established as the Salmon & Trout Association (S&TA) in 1903 to address the damage done to our rivers by the polluting effects of the Industrial Revolution. Throughout its history and to the present day, S&TC UK has worked to protect fisheries, fish stocks and the wider aquatic environment for the public benefit. S&TC UK has charitable status in England, Wales and Scotland and its charitable objectives empower it to address all issues affecting fish and the aquatic environment, supported by robust evidence from its scientific network, and to take the widest possible remit in protecting salmonid fish stocks and the aquatic environment upon which they depend.