SmartRivers developments and achievements during lockdown

As with everything right now, SmartRivers (the volunteer arm of the Riverfly Census) is navigating its way through the 'new normal'.

However, despite restrictions forcing us to postpone travelling and training courses this year, lockdown gave us the time to make SmartRivers even smarter.

 

SmartRivers - now an IFM certified course

We are delighted to announce that our SmartRivers training course has been accredited by the Institute of Fisheries Management (IFM). All volunteers who have completed and will be completing their SmartRivers training will qualify for this certification.

Having the SmartRivers training course fully certified by IFM is a great achievement for us. We have spent a great deal of time and effort working out how to transform the Riverfly Census methodology into an accessible, but scientifically robust, volunteer-friendly format. This certification gives us reassurance that our approach has been successful.

Paul Coulson, Director of Operations at IFM said:

“Following a review of the SmartRivers training course by the IFM Training Team the Institute is very pleased to be able to fully accredit the course. The course utilises an array of delivery methods and a wide range of learning materials, and is backed up with further guidance and support following the completion of the course. Trainees who attend this course will receive a high standard of teaching and will leave well equipped to assess their own waters.”

We want all our volunteers to have confidence that they are receiving the highest possible standard of training and support. We hope that knowing this course is recognised by such a prestigious body as IFM will give them that extra reassurance.

 

A new home for SmartRivers data

SmartRivers data is essential to our conservation and policy work. It is the scientific evidence we need to pinpoint local case studies that give us the power to make national changes. To make this data available and in an accessible form for all, we have built a free, open-access, online portal for all SmartRivers data to be uploaded, stored, interrogated and downloaded.

Lauren Mattingley, SmartRivers Project Manager, explains what the new database will tell us:

"When invertebrate species lists are submitted by volunteers into the database, they are automatically processed through a special calculator. The calculator generates values that indicate the impact of: organic pollution, nutrient enrichment, sediment, river flow and chemicals. You can look at each of these pressures locally and nationally, for a specific time period. This analysis can pinpoint what the problems are and where they are occurring, allowing us to control what is controllable and drive real improvements to the quality of water flowing through our rivers."

The existing data for hubs already part of Smart Rivers is live on the system, and the backlog of data from our Riverfly Census is being added over the next few months. If you want to take a look, we have put together a handy how-to guide with screenshots that explains how to use the database. To access the database open the guide here and email smartrivers@salmon-trout.org to request a login link.

 

What’s next?

We are constantly evaluating the situation based on the ever-changing Government guidelines, but we remain hopeful that training sessions will be able to resume in spring 2021.

We are still enrolling hubs into the project. To launch a SmartRivers hub on a new river, we collect a one year professional benchmark and provide two day-long courses for groups of volunteers. We can only run courses with groups of around 10 volunteers and not for individuals. However, if you are struggling to establish a 'hub' group your local Rivers Trust or Wildlife Trust may be able to help!

Not just another escape

As a moderate late summer storm abated, rumours that one of Mowi’s salmon farms between the Mull of Kintyre and Arran was in trouble were confirmed by a statement from the company:

“On August 20, 2020, Mowi’s salmon farm at Carradale North, consisting of 10 circular net pens containing 550,000 salmon (at 4.2kgs), shifted position after its seabed anchors became dislodged during Storm Ellen that has hit the UK and Ireland. The company’s priority at this time is to secure the fish cages in place until Storm Ellen subsides, and to safeguard staff, contractors and fish stock”.

Soon thereafter dramatic aerial pictures, showing that one of the farm’s circular cages was severely buckled, dominated both broadcast and print media coverage. The images made a mockery of the claim advanced in an ingratiating article about the Carradale farm in the local Campbeltown newspaper two months earlier that new “robust anchoring” renders “the pens more stable and better suited to withstand the most extreme weather”.

The damage to the farm allowed some 48,000 large salmon to escape. When it comes to escapes, the Carradale farm has form, having “lost” 16,000 immature fish in 2015. Mowi’s recent record elsewhere in the region is suspect; 73,000 salmon escaped from its farm off Colonsay in January this year. What differentiates this latest escape is the fact that the fish were mature and they entered the wider marine environment just at the time of year when they are predisposed to run into rivers alongside wild salmon

Sure enough, within days large numbers of flabby farmed salmon were showing up in west Scotland rivers, notably in the Firth of Clyde (the Leven) and Ayrshire. These fish dominated rod catches, an indication that they will likely greatly outnumber wild fish on the spawning redds. Mowi’s position statement that it “continues to engage with local and national wild fisheries groups to monitor and assess the presence or absence of salmonid genetic introgression” is essentially meaningless. The genie is well and truly out of the bottle, with farmed salmon of Norwegian origin (alien fish to Scottish rivers) seriously threatening the vital genetic integrity of our already depleted native wild salmon strains. Imagine, if you will, wild wolves interbreeding with poodles and consequently the fitness of the offspring.

It is not currently illegal for a salmon farming company to have an escape in Scotland, so Scottish Government will not intervene. Contrast this with Chile where Mowi has just been fined $6.7 million following a major escape there in 2018.

Indeed, Mowi Scotland is somewhat blasé and on record as recognising that escapes are inevitable (and viewed as just another business expense). In response to the Carradale escape, Ian Roberts, a director at Mowi Scotland, responded thus: "To lose 48,000 fish is extremely disappointing and obviously hits you financially as well... But in the history of salmon farming and... moving into locations that are very high in energy and difficult to farm unfortunately, we have these incidents… it has happened before and it will happen in the future again…."

In these circumstances the only remedy likely to cause Mowi to redouble efforts to retain its stocks within their cages is legal action for damages by District Salmon Fishery Boards and/or their representative body Fisheries Management Scotland (FMS). To date the response by the latter has been muted with no outright condemnation of the escape; they have simply issued advice that the farmed fish should be killed and scale samples taken. Some Boards in the affected area are now looking for FMS to take the lead with robust action.

Considerable numbers of farmed salmon are now also showing up in the rivers of north-west England. There is a growing clamour on the ground for the relevant authorities to instigate appropriate legal action against those responsible. Obviously, no-one can bring a case without the necessary evidence – in this case sample fish. Initially anglers were given the bonkers instruction to release any farmed fish back into the water! Fortunately, this has now been rescinded, at least on the Cumbrian rivers, with the Environment Agency advising that “farmed salmon may be taken and killed” and reported accordingly.

 

MoRPh: a tool for assessing river habitats at biological monitoring sites

As you probably already know, SmartRivers is proud to be part of the Riverfly Partnership's 'Riverfly Plus' toolkit, alongside other exciting citizen science projects like MoRPh - the modular river survey

River organisms respond to their environment and so it is important to monitor any environmental changes. Often the environment is characterised through water chemistry and temperature, but the physical and hydraulic habitat structure of the river and its margins are also very important.

The MoRPh survey was developed to inventory habitats within a river channel and along its margins at a scale appropriate for characterising the physical environment at biological monitoring sites. Originally the biological monitoring was envisaged to be kick sampling of macroinvertebrate communities, and so MoRPh was designed to capture habitat within a rectangular area extending back 10 m across both river bank tops and along a length of river roughly equivalent to twice the river width. By conducting 10 adjacent MoRPh surveys along a river, a river length of approximately 20 channel widths is inventoried, which should be sufficient to capture the larger range of habitats available to more mobile species such as fish. I expect that both these scales are of interest to readers because invertebrates are food for fish!

The MoRPh survey records flow velocity patterns; sediments, including areas of siltation of the river bed; physical features such as pools, riffles, bars, bank profiles, ponds; the structure and extent of the river bed, edge and bank top vegetation; and the types of human interventions (pipes, weirs, bank reinforcement) and pressures from adjacent land use. These observations are recorded by not only ticking the type of feature that is present on a list but also by estimating the feature’s abundance through either a count (pools, riffles) or a category of percentage cover (gravel, vegetation structural type). There are three feature lists to complete, one for the bank tops, one for the bank faces and one for the river bed. In addition, the surveyor records details of where the survey is located, so that it can be shown on a map, and also the approximate size of the river channel, because river channel properties are strongly affected by river size.

MoRPh surveyors are allocated a log-in to an information system that stores and maps their data, calculates some useful indicators from their survey data, and allows raw data and indicators to be downloaded. The indicators include the degree of siltation, the average and largest sizes of the bed material, and the physical and vegetation complexity of the river bed. These bed-indicators are extremely useful for monitoring short-term (monthly, seasonal, annual) changes in the river bed that may impact on the invertebrate community. Broader changes in the river channel and its margins also have important impacts on river organisms but these changes usually occur more slowly, making monitoring most effective at an annual or longer timescale.

If you are interested in the MoRPh survey and would like to find out more, have a look at the Modular River Survey website: www.modularriversurvey.org.

- Prof. Angela Gurnell, Queen Mary University of London

The Shetland Factor

Many believe salmon farming is an issue exclusive to wild fish in the west Highlands and Hebrides. However, controlling sea lice on farms in Shetland is just as important as our Scottish Director, Andrew Graham-Stewart explains...

The official figures for rod catches of salmon in Scotland during 2018 were published last week. That they were the lowest since official records began was hardly a surprise. There has been a downward trend for several years and last year’s depressing figures were exacerbated and indeed partly explained by extreme conditions; on the majority of rivers most of the summer was unfishable as flows became trickles in the extended drought and temperatures soared. Incidentally it is worth noting that the season was not a universal write-off; despite the conditions, catches on the North Highland rivers were reasonably buoyant (albeit condensed into short periods) and the run registered by the fish counter on the Helmsdale was one of the best for years.

Looking at 'farm by farm' sea lice data

Back in autumn 2017, on the basis of data obtained under FOI (its release by Scottish Government was only forthcoming after our successful appeal to the Information Commissioner), we were able to analyse, for the first time, weekly sea lice numbers on a farm by farm basis; prior to this we only had access to regional monthly averages.

Between November 2016 and August 2017, the period for which the data was forthcoming, the worst performing company in the Scottish Islands and overall worst performing company in Scotland was Grieg Seafood Shetland Ltd. For months on end its Shetland farms’ figures were massively above the industry’s code of good practice trigger threshold for treatment; some of the numbers were eye-watering – in one week on one farm the average number of adult female sea lice per fish was a staggering 29.

I commented at the time:

“Grieg Seafood’s lamentable record exemplifies the very widespread failure to control sea lice in Shetland. It is no wonder that mature wild sea trout have been wiped out in these islands.”

What this means for wild smolts

In the last 18 months there has been little improvement in sea lice control by salmon farms on Shetland, where over 20% of Scotland’s tonnage is concentrated. It remains a hotbed of lice production, with the farms consistently pumping out billions of sea lice larvae into the wider environment. What this means is that any wild salmon smolts passing within 20 miles (studies show that elevated levels of sea lice emanating from a farm may be found up to a distance of 31 km) either side of Shetland are highly vulnerable to picking up lethal infestations of the deadly parasites.

There is scant knowledge of the migration route(s) taken by smolts from Scottish east and north coast rivers. But a cursory glance at a map suggests that it is a reasonable supposition that they will pass close to Shetland as they head north towards the feeding grounds of the North Norwegian Sea.

There is a tendency amongst those who manage and/or fish on these rivers, including the Big Four, to view salmon farming as only being an issue for wild fish in the west Highlands and Hebrides. In numerous conversations with east and north coast river managers over the last two years I have raised the scenario that sea lice from Shetland farms may well be impacting their smolt survival. On reflection (most had not considered the possibility) all have agreed that this could easily be a significant factor.

Indeed, from a wild fish perspective, the control of sea lice on farms may be just as important in Shetland (and indeed Orkney), with the possible implications for east and north coast smolts, as it is in the west Highlands and Hebrides.

- Andrew Graham-Stewart, Scottish Director 

For Scottish Enquiries contact: director@salmon-troutscotland.org

Header photo credit: Eva Thorstad

We all have a responsibility to save the ‘King of Fish’

The publication of new Environment Agency byelaws banning the killing of salmon in the North East drift and coastal nets was very welcome news earlier this year and brought to a close a campaign by fisheries organisations that lasted some 30 years.

Scotland banned drift netting in 1962 and closed down its coastal nets in 2016, so most UK salmon are now able to reach their rivers of birth unhindered by home-water netting. It was a tremendous way to begin the International Year of the Salmon. However, the same is not true of salmon feeding off the West Coast of Greenland, an area where many of the UK’s multi-sea-winter fish go to fatten up. 

Getting the quotas right

The North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organisation (NASCO) was originally established more than 30 years ago to set quotas for Greenland and the Faroe Islands, who between them caught nearly 4,000 tonnes of salmon at the height of their respective commercial fishing industries (Greenland in the mid 1970s and the Faroes early 1980s).  The Faroe Islands have not fished for salmon since 2000, although they reserve the right to do so if the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) ever report again that there is enough of a surplus of fish in the North Atlantic to exploit.

Greenland is much more complicated. For many years, NASCO gave the Greenlanders a subsistence quota of around 20 tonnes of salmon – fish that could be caught and either sold in the local open-air markets or kept for food by the fishermen.  Commercial fishing was not allowed, and export was banned.  Private funds were even given from around the North Atlantic countries with recreational fishing to the Greenlanders to help them re-equip and target different species.

However, monitoring and enforcement of salmon fishing by the Greenland Government was only really tightened some five years ago, when it became clear that the actual salmon catch was veering towards 100 tonnes a year.  To be fair, it is a thankless task trying to oversee any coastal activity in Greenland, as the West Coast communities are so disparate – there is no road connection between them, with travel limited to those with access to either boat or plane.  However, when Government officials started to phone round the fishing community and ask for catch statistics, alarm bells were rung.

The current situation

In 2015, Greenland accepted a quota of 45 tonnes agreed at NASCO.  Unfortunately, some people with little knowledge of the background ridiculed NASCO for the size of the quota, when in realistic terms, it was actually halving the amount of fish that was now known to have been caught in previous years.  Coupled to the new quota was a new management and regulatory system adopted by the Greenland Government which put much greater emphasis on monitoring and reporting.  In 2018, the quota was reduced to 30 tonnes.

The bad news is that Greenland has just reported a catch of 40 tonnes for 2018!  However, rather than a return to the bad days, at least the government has a handle on the fishery now and, if it abides by the NASCO agreement, the 10-tonne excess will be taken off the quota for this season, which is comforting news for our MSW (Multi Sea Winter) fish.

What this means closer to home...

All this regulation and government support at Greenland and the Faroe Islands means that UK governments have an extra responsibility to protect salmon stocks at home.  Good for Scotland and England in taking decisive action over coastal netting, but we still have serious issues to address – open-net salmon farming, agricultural impact on water quality, habitat degradation, water abstraction, barriers to migration, predation – and for that we need a political commitment throughout the UK which is sadly lacking at the moment.

I have some sympathy for Greenlanders who generally have a far better grasp of what ‘sustainable exploitation’ means than we ever have – they still derive much of their protein from natural resources and realise how important it is to manage those stocks effectively.  So when an angler lands a salmon in the UK and has to return it to the water because of byelaws or fishery rules, rather than curse the regulators, spare a thought for the Greenlanders and Faroese and their sacrifice in the name of conservation.

Better still, understand that, as Sir David Attenborough said in our recent video, if we are not to lose the King of Fish for ever, we all have to play our part, in whatever way we can, to help Atlantic salmon through their present crisis. The International Year of the Salmon gives us the opportunity to focus on that very stark warning, and act now!

- Paul Knight, CEO

International Year of the Salmon – Our annual seminar in Wales

Latest figures reveal populations in 21 of the country’s 23 principle salmon rivers to be probably at risk or at risk of failing to meet their conservation limits. It was with this thought in mind that the recent S&TC Cymru annual seminar took on an International Year of the Salmon theme, posing the question: “Can we save the Atlantic salmon?”

The overall consensus

Robust presentations citing the latest discoveries in our understanding of salmon population dynamics left delegates in no doubt that a new approach towards habitat management and water quality management is required if we are to maximise spawning success and achieve maximum escapement. Learn more about how S&TC are fighting for healthy habitats here.

Central to achieving good water quality is a science-backed understanding of what the pressures are. Our Riverfly Census provides critical insights into the health of the freshwater environment, but also provides benchmarks against which to assess the success or otherwise of various management interventions.

It is imperative that the Riverfly Census work is continued through its future development and expansion into S&TC’s SmartRivers; where local people will be able to harness the power of species-level invertebrate analysis to pinpoint water quality pressures on their own rivers.

Summary of the day

Proceedings began with a passionate personal account by author and broadcaster Will Millard of the important role salmon, clean rivers and wild fish have played in his life and his desire to see them restored and protected. Our CEO Paul Knight explained the important and role S&TC has played over the past century advocating on behalf of salmon while deputy CEO Nick Measham revealed the manner in which our Riverfly Census can be used to highlight the threats facing the invertebrate population upon which salmon parr depend.

Dr Nigel Milner related the role played by the IFM at NASCO and the need to revise current stock assessment methods to better understand and predict the dynamics of salmon populations. Ian Davidson of NRW continued the stock assessment theme and the
important role played by the Welsh Dee or Dyfrdwy as an index river. The dynamics and fate of small and declining salmon populations were presented by Professor Carlos Garcia de Leaniz of Swansea University who also drew attention to the hitherto underestimated importance of salmon choosing to spawn in different rivers to those in which they originated. The morning session was drawn to a close by author and Gamefisher editor Tom Fort who narrated a fascinating thousand year history of salmon exploitation in British rivers by both nets and rods.

The afternoon session got under way with a comprehensive and encouraging report from Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water’s Environment Programme Manager, Gail Davies, on the company’s
contributions towards conserving the freshwater environment and safeguarding the future of our wild fish. Dr Guy Mawle gave a detailed and valuable account of his own thoughts and observations, posing some challenging questions regarding possible reasons for recent declines in reported salmon numbers from his home river, the Usk. Drawing the theme of the day to a close, Dr Stephen Marsh-Smith OBE of Afonydd Cymru and the Wye and Usk Foundation related his own conclusions drawn from a long and intimate connection with the Wye and offered some valuable suggestions on the steps required if we are to see our salmon stocks return to truly sustainable levels.

Our Fundraising Manager, Guy Edwards, then gave a short but powerful presentation on the value of our financial independence and the need to allow science to lead us in our campaigning efforts. This was followed by S&TC trustee Tony Bostock who provided a very useful summary of the day’s proceedings before thanking the contributors for their valuable contributions.

Seminar coordinator and S&TC’s National Officer for Wales, Richard Garner Williams, wishes to thank all concerned for making the day such a success and looks forward to repeating the exercise in 2020.

Header image credit: Alan Ward at country field media.

For Welsh enquiries contact: wales@salmon-trout.org

For Riverfly Census enquiries contact: lauren@salmon-trout.org

Local myth-busting with the Riverfly Census Conclusions

You’ve probably seen our local Riverfly Census Conclusion reports popping up over the past few weeks. Now we’re tying up the Riverfly Census project, we thought it would be useful to let you know what these reports mean, how they can be used and the exciting things planned as we draw closer to the big Riverfly Census finale in May!

 

A bit of Riverfly Census background

At S&TC we were determined to grasp a true biological picture of our rivers, because detailed, robust baselines of their health are missing.

Without a strong data baseline it is difficult to pinpoint exact pressures or confidently measure improvement. A doctor could not assess your health without scans, tests or a family history - our rivers are no different! Cue the launch of the Riverfly Census, a national research project developed to assess and diagnose the health of a variety of UK rivers.

Aquatic invertebrates were our ‘scan’ of choice because:



They represent a long-term picture, much more informative than a single point water sample, as in nymph form they are exposed to the water sometimes for years.



They are excellent story tellers as every invertebrate species thrives in a specific set of conditions. The types of bugs present and absent from a sample indicate what pressures a river may be experiencing.

Reporting with a purpose

S&TC are 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.

What's next?

There are still a few local reports to be completed, but our main focus at the moment has been putting together the national Riverfly Census conclusions; an overarching document with evidence based recommendations from our data.

The most powerful aspect of our Riverfly Census was that all the data was collected and analysed independently by professionals. Because of this, the Census is not just more science for the sake of science, it is usable data that can be used to shape environmental policy.

Wild salmon and trout need the best water quality possible to thrive, and if we can get decision makers to take on some of our recommendations, we believe we will get one step closer to achieving the environment they need.

 

The national Riverfly Census report will be launched on the 14th May 2019, so keep an eye on our social channels or sign up to our mailing list to stay in the know.

 

Header image credit: Don Stazicker

For Riverfly Census enquiries contact: lauren@salmon-trout.org

Scottish Government inertia marks anniversary of Scottish Parliament’s Environment Committee’s report into salmon farming

Scottish Government inertia marks anniversary of Scottish Parliament's Environment Committee's report into salmon farming

Industry allowed to persist with business as usual a year after Government was told 'the status quo is not an option'

One year on from the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform (ECCLR) Committee’s report on the Environmental Impacts of Salmon Farming, the first part of the 2018 Scottish Parliament Inquiry into the industry, Salmon and Trout Conservation Scotland (S&TCS) is concerned that the report is being allowed to gather dust by both Scottish Government and the industry.

Andrew Graham-Stewart, Director of S&TCS, said:

“A year ago, the ECCLR Committee, could not have been clearer that any expansion of the industry ‘must be on the basis of a precautionary approach and must be based on resolving the environmental problems’ and that ‘the status quo is not an option’. It is obvious that almost nothing has changed and we fear that the Scottish Government’s game-plan is yet more of the prevarication that has allowed the industry to develop without meaningful regulation and at the expense of the coastal environment and those species, including migratory fish, which rely on healthy coastal ecosystems. Consequently, environmental damage is continuing and indeed increasing unchecked. Scottish Government’s completely unconditional support for the salmon farming industry must end.”

The 2018 Parliamentary Inquiry into salmon farming, as conducted by the ECCLR and REC Committees, was triggered by S&TCS' formal Petition to the Scottish Parliament’s Petitions Committee in 2016.

Guy Linley-Adams, Solicitor for S&TCS, commented:

“The ECCLR Committee’s comprehensive report underlined why urgent action was required to protect wild salmon and sea trout. However, Scottish Government has not yet grasped the nettle and moved to legislate in order to improve markedly the protection of wild salmon and sea trout from the negative impacts of salmon farming.”

 

SSPO still failing to publish farm by farm sea lice data in as close to real time as possible

On transparency, the ECCLR Committee’s report was adamant that the industry should publish weekly data on sea lice figures on a farm by farm basis in as close to real time as possible, together with all historic data “from the time records are available”, this to be done
by the end of April 2018.

The Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation has not honoured this deadline, nor is it publishing current farm by farm sea lice data in as close as possible to real time, as the Committee required. In contrast it is only publishing monthly sea lice averages per farm more than three months in arrears and it is to the Scottish Government’s shame that they have not amended secondary legislation to force transparency on this most important of issues.

Welsh charities join forces for World Fish Migration Day

World Fish Migration Day

This Saturday we will be helping to celebrate the third World Fish Migration day. There will be a number of fascinating events and activities in Wales for people to enjoy and learn more about the life-cycle of migratory fish species.

This global initiative aims to highlight the importance of conserving migratory fish species and aquatic ecosystem. Approximately 50 countries will celebrate this inspiring day and more than 2,000 organisations are participating in the occasion, holding over 400 events ranging from dam removals and river clean-up activities to educational seminars and fishing events.

All around the world, people depend on fish for livelihoods, economic value and healthy ecosystems. But fish also depend on people, to be able to freely migrate and thrive. There are around 15,000 freshwater fish species known to migrate in some way during their life cycle including our wild salmon and sea trout. Around 1,100 of these are long-distance migratory fish that depend on free-flowing rivers to thrive, including the iconic European eel that migrates over 10,000 km between the Sargasso Sea and European.

Richard Garner Williams, National Officer for Salmon & Trout Conservation Cymru said:

“We are supporting this important initiative because it is vital that we raise awareness about the need to improve and restore our watery environments for migratory fish.

Rivers provide many services for us including water supply, hydropower, and irrigation but often these activities are carried out at high cost to the environment and migratory fish species. We would therefore urge people to attend some of the local events that are being organised in Wales as part of World Fish Migration Day. These will help all ages learn more about our rivers and importantly how we can make these safe havens for our very special fish species.”

Events being held across Wales on Saturday 21stApril for World Fish Migration Day include: 

  1. Super Sewin Saturday. Whitland Memorial Hall, Whitland, Carmarthenshire. S&TC Cymru, The West Wales Rivers Trust and natural Resources Wales. Open from: 11:00 – 14:00. Free admission. Presentations by : Dr Graeme Harris (renowned sea trout expert) - “ Welsh Sea Trout: recent developments and new questions” Dave Mee (Senior Adviser Fisheries, NRW) – “Science and the Sewin” Richard Garner Williams (S&TC Cymru) – “The Meaning of Sewin” Helen Jobson and Lloyd Williams (WWRT) – Riverfly Demonstration

Contact Richard Garner Williams    e. wales@salmon-trout.org   m. 078 0905 6152

  1. “Radyr Weir Fish Migration Day”Radyr Weir, Cardiff : South East Wales Rivers Trust, Natural Resources Wales, Cardiff Harbour Authority, Cardiff Council and Dwr Cymru Welsh Water from 10am-3pm. Entry is free, so bring the whole family along and join us for face painting, fun competitions and art and craft activities.  Pictures of work the Trust and others have carried out to improve fish migration on the River Taff, and in other areas, will be on display, along with a sample of river life. There will also be talks by organisations about their work in and along the Taff that has helped to transform a river, once blighted by industry, into one that is recognised far and wide for its fish populations, as well as wildlife.

Contact Tony Rees m. 07702435021    t. 01685723520  e. tony.rees@sewrt.org

  1. Journey with a fish up the River DeeChester Weir, Chester, The Welsh Dee Rivers Trust, Natural Resources Wales and the North Wales Wildlife Trust.  Admission is free and it runs from 11:00 – 14:00 pm
  2. Exploring the Afon Einig. Wye & Usk Fundation. The Wye and Usk Foundation’s event is at their HQ on The Square, Talgarth, Brecon LD3 0BW where they will be exploring the current status and hopes for the restoration of the Afon Ennig, a once prolific spawning ground for Wye salmon
  3. Swansea University Family Day.  This is a family day allowing families to learn about the research going on at Swansea. One of the activities will be a game illustrating the challenges faced by fish migrating downstream towards the sea. This activity will be run twice during the day so that as many attendees as possible can engage with it. Location: The Wallace Building, Singleton Park SA2 8PP

For more information on these events or World Fish Migration Day, please contact: Richard Garner Williams on email: wales@salmon-trout.org or m. 078 0905 6152 or visit the website for World Fish Migration Day at https://www.worldfishmigrationday.com

Pinpointing Pesticides – Our national survey now uses water insects to solve chemical puzzle

We are pleased to announce that pesticide fingerprints can now be detected using the Riverfly Census’ analytical tool kit… a massive breakthrough in monitoring water quality for neonicotinoids and other insect killing chemicals 

The Riverfly Census can now show the impact of pesticides on water quality in addition to the threats from nutrients, sediments, organic pollution and river flow.  This is thanks to the incorporation of SPEAR modelling into his biometric finger printing by Dr. Nick Everall and his team at Aquascience Consultancy Limited.

This development is hugely important. Chemical testing for pesticides is costly and difficult. Pesticide pollution can be fleetingly brief, wrecking damage but dispersing between the EA’s chemical sampling dates. Invertebrates live in the river. They will show the impact of pesticide pollution long after the pollutant has dispersed. Invertebrate sampling and analysis is also much cheaper than its chemical counterparts.

By inputting our species-level results into the tool, known as SPEAR, we have demonstrated a clear impact of pesticides in several Census rivers including the Avon, the Wensum and the Welland. We will be incorporating a full SPEAR analysis of all our Census’ rivers in the full report due later this year.

Widespread harmful pesticide presence in UK rivers was recently highlighted by Buglife, in a report based on Environment Agency data. However, the Buglife report needed S&TC’s Riverfly Census data to provide evidence of actual ecological damage by showing the impact of pesticides on aquatic bugs. The combination of our Census’ species-level data and SPEAR allows us for the first time to assess the impact as opposed to the presence of harmful pesticides.

Results from the Avon and the Wensum indicate that pesticides are impacting water quality on top the phosphate and sediment pressures already shown in the Census. The Wensum’s water quality has ranked poorly throughout the three years of the Census while the Avon’s quality has nose-dived from good in 2015 to poor in 2017.

Graph showing that as SPEAR score goes over the WFD threshold, Avon Gammarus abundance mostly declines
Graph showing that as SPEAR score goes over the WFD threshold, Avon Gammarus abundance mostly declines

Avon results

  • Three of our five sites showed a moderate pesticide signature in the autumn 2016 results.
  • In autumn 2017, again three sites showed a pesticide signature but this time two sites scored poorly (Stratford Bridge and Ham Hatches) and one moderate (Stonehenge).

Wensum results

  • The impact of pesticides on the Wensum appears wide spread. 57% of the 30 samples we took at 5 sites during 2015, 2016 & 2017 on the Wensum had a pesticide biological signature of moderate or worse.
  • Fakenham Common showed a pesticide signature for all samples except spring 2016.
  • Pensthorpe Nature Park showed a pesticide signature for all samples except Spring 2017. Two of the samples achieved bad, demonstrating a high impact of pesticides on the biology here.

We are very excited about the powers of SPEAR and its potential to answer some of the big questions we all have about what pesticides are doing to our water life.

We are keen to work with the EA to seek wider adoption of SPEAR in their invertebrate water quality monitoring and river classification under the Water Framework Directive (WFD).  In Europe, these measures of pesticide biological signatures are classed as WFD threshold failures for good ecological condition. We have already started analysing historic EA results with SPEAR.

We firmly believe the tool can be a great asset our quest to achieve more informed and effective management of our rivers.

For more information on the Riverfly Census email lauren@salmon-trout.org or click the button below:

To learn more about SPEAR click the following links: