Chalk streams debated in parliament

We always intended the Riverfly Census to be a lobbying document as well as reporting on the science, and this has been an excellent first political outing for it.

Paul Knight, CEO, S&TC

In a speech during a House of Commons debate on "Degraded chalk stream environments", Richard Benyon MP cited evidence from S&TC’s ground breaking Riverfly Census Report. Further, he referenced our investigative work into previously unknown pesticide issues associated with a salad washing plant owned by multinational food group, Bakkavör. [recently covered by BBC Countryfile]

By way of response, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs minister, Dr Thérèse Coffee, rather worryingly pointed to the EA’s permitting system for discharges into rivers as giving them adequate protection. S&TC does not agree.

Nick Measham, S&TC’s Deputy CEO (Project Manager for the Riverfly Census and SmartRivers) said,

“Richard Benyon used S&TC’s professionally sampled and analysed data to show that our rivers are far from being protected at the moment, especially our chalk streams, which we have shown are badly impacted not only by toxic chemicals, but excess phosphate and sediment as well.  We suspect that one of the outcomes of our Bakkavör work may well have national implications for discharges directly into watercourses, so Dr Coffee might not be quite so confident in her agency’s permitting performance in the near future.”

S&TC’s Head of Science, Dr Janina Gray, added,

“Our Riverfly Census results show the power of good science to establish the ecological health status of our rivers and at the same time encourage the Environment Agency to actually take action when problems are highlighted.  It also shows that by producing sound science such as the Riverfly Census results, we can support Richard Benyon and his Parliamentary colleagues with solid evidence to help them influence change at the highest level.”

S&TC’s CEO, Paul Knight, said,

“Richard Benyon’s speech was a welcome public endorsement of our approach to protecting wild water and all that relies on it. He outlined that our data had shown a pesticide discharge from Bakkavor’s plant into the River Itchen that had gone unnoticed, until the arrival of the S&TC team to analyse the invertebrates. This precipitated the Environment Agency conducting their own analysis, which confirmed our results. It is clear none of this would have happened without our intervention, data gathering and subsequent lobbying.”

Follow the full debate in Hansard

Reporting with a purpose

S&TC is a national organisation and we use evidence from local case studies to help instigate policy changes that will benefit UK wild fish populations. But, this is just part of the value - we are making all our Riverfly Census findings available so they can be used to inform local management and drive action.

Each individual river report is based on three years of surveying data. Where possible, we have linked up our findings with other existing literature and data. Using the available information we suggest where local fishing and/or conservation groups can focus their management efforts to achieve the best health outcomes for each of the 12 original Census rivers.

Some of our local reports can be found on the slider below. Alternatively, visit the Riverfly Census page and scroll down to the map.