Don Catchment Rivers Trust wins Prix Charles Ritz Award 2019

Salmon & Trout Conservation and The International Fario Club are delighted to announce the Don Catchment Rivers Trust as recipients of the Prix Charles Ritz Award for England and Wales 2019

The Prix Charles Ritz award celebrates and rewards those who champion work to develop and improve rivers. Specifically, the award is granted to initiatives carried out for the preservation of our freshwater environment.

Read More: www.salmon-trout.org/2019/03/31/charles-ritz-2019-england-wales/

Ed Shaw, DCRT Director said:

“Winning the Ritz Grand Prix has come as a big surprise to us. The Don is not a glamorous river, and we were keenly aware when the judges came to visit one damp grey November day that they would have an industrial and urban experience. However, the industry and the towns and cities of South Yorkshire are fundamental to the story of the Don, and what makes the return of salmon to our river all the more compelling, so perhaps that counted in our favour. 

We have a hard-working and dedicated team that has done a huge amount of work with local communities to get them involved with the river and to get people thinking positively about it. The recognition the prize represents means a lot to us; we couldn’t be more delighted.”

Read more about the work of the Don Catchment Rivers Trust: https://dcrt.org.uk

The River Don flows through some of England’s most deprived communities.

Larinier fish passes built on Steelbank and Brightside Weirs.

fishpass
fishpass1

Team of Living Heritage of the River Don volunteers after a river clean-up session.

The Dalton Brook, a tributary of the Don, before and after it had been cleaned up by Living Heritage of the River Don volunteers.

Trib
trib1

School children at a River Guardians session.

Two salmon found in the Don January 2019. The lefthand salmon was found dead. It had spawned, which usually results in the mortality of salmon. If it has reproduced successfully then its offspring will be the first generation of salmon to have been born in Sheffield for about 200 years.

dead
salmon

QUICK LINKS

Can a “feed the world” mantra justify trashing our marine environment?

"The suggestion that salmon farming is somehow justifiable in order to feed the world simply will not wash."

Andrew Graham-Stewart, Salmon & Trout Conservation Scotland

I have been cursing Fergus Ewing MSP, Cabinet Secretary in Scotland for the Rural Economy, of late. Of course, it is nothing personal. I will explain.

On November 6 I was watching – on Parliament TV – Ewing and his senior civil servants giving evidence before the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Economy Committee. Following close questioning about the salmon farming industry’s dismal environmental record, Ewing sought to justify the industry’s “serious problems” thus:  “If we have to feed twice as big a population in the world, we must, as no new farmland is going to be created any time soon, find a way of using the marine environment……to feed the planet.”

As soon as the Cabinet Secretary uttered the words “feed the planet”, the refrain from what is perhaps the most annoying and sanctimonious pop ditty in history entered my head. In 1984 the assorted stars of Band Aid raised millions towards famine relief in Ethiopia, a thoroughly creditable initiative, through sales of the single Do they know it’s Christmas? The words of the chorus, Feed the world, are repeated endlessly in shrill tones. Ever since its release, this song and its inane refrain have become a staple of the excruciating muzak that pollutes public spaces throughout December. This year, thanks to Fergus Ewing’s utterance, I have been struggling to expurge the inane Feed the world refrain from my consciousness since early November.

Of far greater import is the fact that farmed salmon is never going to be a sustainable answer to feeding the world. Growing farmed salmon is dependent on the extraction by foreign-flagged factory ships of vast amounts of other fish, mainly from the coastal seas off poor countries in West Africa and South America (depriving local communities of sustenance and the opportunity of making a sustainable living), and shipping the catch thousands of miles to be converted into fishmeal.

Farmed salmon is simply not an efficient use of fish protein. It requires a considerably greater weight of bait or other fish to produce a kilo of farmed salmon – and the oft-quoted and dubiously optimistic conversion ratios never take into account those farmed salmon that die, because of disease and parasites, before they are harvested; this mortality rate of salmon (for which in effect the feed has been entirely wasted) in Scotland is some 25%.

As I write, supermarket fresh salmon is retailing for around £15 per kilo, generally more than the price of cod or haddock and far more than the likes of mackerel or herring. In fact, salmon is often a luxury purchase; recently the Daily Mirror reported that one Tesco London store is “hiding smoked salmon following a string of thefts in the run-up to Christmas”. Farmed salmon is not cheap protein that is going to be a solution for world hunger. It is simply fatuous for any politician or indeed industry spin-doctor to suggest that is the case.

Hardly a week goes by without further damning evidence of what an environmental disaster open-cage salmon farming is. Scottish Ministers and industry spokespersons are increasingly desperate in their search for valid reasons to vindicate the trashing of our coastal marine environment and the catastrophic decline in those species that depend upon clean, chemical-free and parasite-free waters. The suggestion that salmon farming is somehow justifiable in order to feed the world simply will not wash.

Dr Cyril Bennett MBE becomes S&TC’s latest honorary life member

We are proud to award Cyril Bennett an honorary life membership of S&TC for his massive contribution to protecting river ecology in general and to the Riverfly Census and SmartRivers in particular. He has been a fly fisherman for 60 years which has stimulated his keen interest in riverfly identification and aquatic ecology.

IMG_4050-1

Cyril is a founder member of the Riverfly Partnership; pioneered the Angler’s Monitoring Initiative (AMI) to highlight pollution problems and initiated the River Invertebrate Identification & Monitoring (RIIM) course to exploit species-level analysis. Research work with the John Spedan Lewis Trust on the River Test at Leckford including Riverfly reintroductions after a pollution incident.

He has achieved academic distinction while working full time. He has a PhD with the University of London (Queen Mary College) on the Ecology of Mayflies, is a Fellow of the Royal Entomological Society (FRES) and has taught ecology at the Open University.

He has also put his lifelong interest in insect macro photography to great effect: he pioneered the development of a pictorial-based App, using his images, to aid species identification. He co-authored ‘A Pictorial Guide to British Ephemeroptera’ (Field Studies Council) and ‘Matching the Hatch’ (Merlin Unwin Books).

He was awarded MBE (for services to Riverfly conservation) in the 2013 Queen’s Birthday Honours List.

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.

“Responsibly Sourced” Are supermarkets facing a crisis of credibility?

"Supermarkets face a crisis of credibility unless they take immediate action to address systemic failings in their own farmed salmon buying policies."

With the launch of a report into the state of farmed salmon being sold on supermarket shelves, Scottish conservation and welfare charities, Salmon & Trout Conservation Scotland (S&TCS) and OneKind, are jointly calling on supermarkets to sort out farmed Scottish salmon.

Surveying of supermarket shelves (samples below) over the course of twelve months reveals that consumers are being sold, and unwittingly consuming, products from Scottish salmon farms meeting one, or a combination, of the following criteria:

1. Raised levels of sea lice parasites and disease

2. Significant premature mortalities

3. Unsatisfactory levels of marine pollution

This places at risk Scotland’s wild fish and marine ecosystems, impacts local community well-being and pays scant regard to improving the poor lives led by many farmed salmon.

Full Report HERE

Sample Products with

Sea Lice, Mortality and Environmental Survey Information

Ends
Issued by Corin Smith, comms@salmon-trout.org

Notes for Editors

Salmon & Trout Conservation UK (S&TC UK) was established in 1903 to address the damage done to our rivers by the polluting effects of the Industrial Revolution. Since then, 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 both England and Scotland (as S&TCS) and its charitable objectives empower it to address all issues affecting wild 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.

www.salmon-trout.org
Media Contact: Corin Smith, comms@salmon-trout.org (+44 74636576892)

OneKind is Scotland’s leading campaigning animal welfare charity, working to end cruelty to Scotland’s animals. OneKind is an evidence-based organisation, using scientific evidence, investigations and research to address the welfare issues of Scotland's wildlife, farmed animals, pets and lab animals. They have done extensive work on the issue of salmon welfare in Scotland's salmon farms and have produced three reports exploring the suffering of Scotland's farmed salmon.

www.onekind.scot
Media Contact: Eve Massie, eve.massie@onekind.org

Incinerator proposal raises serious concerns

"This proposed incinerator at Barton Stacey in the Test Valley raises serious environmental concerns"

Nick Measham, Salmon & Trout Conservation

S&TC do not normally comment on local planning issues but the proposed incinerator at Barton Stacey in the Test Valley raises grave national environmental issues:

1. Abstraction in the headwaters of a fragile chalk stream, the River Test which has an endangered population of genetically-distinct Atlantic salmon

2. A pollution threat from carcinogenic dioxins and endocrine disrupters in the incinerator’s gas discharge which will settle on the chalk and leach into the aquifer with a threat to insect, animal and human life.

Please respond to the consultation at: www.wtiharewood.co.uk

CLOSING DATE FOR COMMENTS 5pm 12th Dec 2019

The case against the incinerator is on: www.bintheincinerator.co.uk

As a UK charity with the objective of protecting wild fish and their habitats the proposed incinerator raises two issues of direct concern to us. It is for others to discuss the wider negative environmental impacts stemming from the construction and operation of the incinerator.

S&TC's first concern is with water supply. We do not believe that Southern Water Services (SWS) has the ground water resources to supply the stated required demand of 135 megalitres a year continuously from an already depleted aquifer without risking environmental damage. The fundamental direction of abstraction policy should be to reduce dependency on the aquifer, not increase it. Should SWS seek to supply from its surface water abstractions, we also believe it does not have the resources to meet the incinerator’s demand without increasing stress on the already over-abstracted Rivers Test and Itchen, until it has developed permanent offsets to meet its recent abstraction licence reductions. The proposed siting of a highly water consumptive plant in the headwaters of such a rare, sensitive and stressed environmental asset as the River Test is a fundamental error. The precautionary principle should apply in this case.

We believe that to safeguard this fragile ecosystem there must be a full examination of the environmental impact of the proposed abstraction, whether or not SWS believes it is able to meet the demand, both now and in the future.

Our second concern is with the impact of toxic chemicals, especially carcinogenic dioxins which will be discharged within the incinerator’s gas/steam plume and also retained within the ash. While we understand there are plans to safely dispose of the ash, some 60% of the dioxins can be expected to be released within the gas/steam plume and, although these toxins become inert above 850 degrees centigrade heat, they will reactivate once the temperature cools. The dioxins will settle on the surface of the surrounding chalk. This will impact insects, wild birds, mammals and livestock and will inevitably leach into the aquifer and quite possibly directly in the river. The groundwater, and subsequently the river, will be polluted with a deadly, carcinogenic chemical cocktail which will also possess endocrine disrupting properties, posing serious threat to the ecosystem of this fragile chalkstream environment. Again, we expect a full environmental impact assessment of this potential impact to be carried out.

Given the potential threat to the chalkstream environment from excessive water abstraction, and to insect, animal and human health from toxic dioxins, the precautionary principle again implies that this project is potentially too dangerous to be sited in its intended position and should therefore be scrapped.

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.

River Invertebrate App – Status Update

We are aware users of our invertebrate identification app have been experiencing access issues.

S&TC apologises for any inconvenience caused.

River Invertebrate App

We are aware users of our invertebrate identification app have been experiencing access issues. S&TC apologises for any inconvenience caused.

Due to a problem out of our control we have had to migrate the app to a new company in order to restore its functionality. Addressing the technical fault is being treated as a top priority and we are working hard to get all existing users up and running as soon as possible.

A further update will be issued as soon as we have more news.
Issued: 17:00hrs 7th Nov 2019

Agricultural Pollution Update – Nov 2019

Government figures show currently only 14% of rivers are classified as healthy…..

Livestock-in-River-2000x1333

Government figures show currently only 14% of rivers are classified as healthy and rural areas are impacting 35% of waterbodies (EA, 2015). Evidence from the Riverfly Census has shown the greatest stressors on our rivers are sediment, excess nutrients, pesticides and other toxic chemicals – many of which are derived from agricultural practices through the poor management of soil, the storage/application of livestock slurry/manures and the use of pesticides.

The Environment Agency (EA) admit compliance with the regulatory baseline is low and progress is slow, variable and not secure as farmers react to market factors and incentives that put them under financial pressure. In 2018, the Government finally introduced ‘new’, legally enforceable Farming Rules for Water. The rules require farmers to manage their land to avoid water pollution. They provide a step by step checklist to safeguard water quality by requiring farmers to judge when it is best, for example, to apply fertilisers, where to store manures and how to avoid pollution from soil erosion.

River-carrying-heavy-sediment-load-in-floodwater-2000x1500

However, in our evidence to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee’s consultation on the Agriculture Bill, we pointed out that the 2018 Regulations largely mirror earlier Codes of Good Agricultural Practice and Government guidance dating back to the 1980s. They are in essence the same rules repackaged that have failed to limit the impact of agriculture on our rivers or change farmer behaviour on the ground.

Yes, now they are enforceable in law. But being enforceable and actually being enforced are two very different things. That’s why at S&TC we want to see a firm commitment from Government, backed up by action, to enforce these new rules.

However, a recent Freedom of Information request made by S&TC revealed that the EA for 2018/2019 only made 403 farm visits. As there are 106,000 farm businesses, since the 2018 Regulations came into force, only about 0.4% of farms have received a visit. At that rate every farm business will get one visit every 263 years.

PA180103-2000x1500

As for breaches of the new rules, the rate of breaches found by the Agency suggests that if all farm businesses all were visited in a single year, we would expect about 4,000 breaches of the 2018 Regulations in the last year alone.

No doubt the EA would suggest these 403 visits were in some way targeted inspections of high risk sites, but it’s also important to bear in mind that visits only occur on one day out of the 365 and actions like spreading slurry on frozen ground or spraying herbicides just before rainfall only takes a day and is likely to be missed.

In short, the EA currently does not have the resources to monitor or enforce the 2018 Regulations effectively and our rivers are paying the price. Until we have an enforcement system where people know they will be caught and action taken if they do the wrong thing, things will not change.

One requirement of the 2018 Regulations is for the Secretary of State to periodically review the provisions contained with the 2018 Regulations. The first report must be published before 2ndApril 2021.

So, we welcome your help to help provide the evidence that the 2018 Regulations on the statute book is not enough.

The EA must have the proper resources to ensure the new rules are implemented and enforced.

And that’s not just S&TC saying that – this was the EFRA Committee of MPs back in 2005:

“Time and again over the course of our enquiries into environmental crime, it has been brought home to us that unless there is a real threat of being detected, the offender will continue to offend.  We cannot stress strongly enough the importance of the threat of detection as a deterrent."

Of course, we need to continue with positive incentives too, and we will continue to lobby for post-Brexit farming regulations which reward farmers for effective environmental protection, but this alone will not achieve healthy watercourses. We need an enforcement and regulation system with teeth.

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.

SmartRivers Update – Great Stour

This autumn we took SmartRivers to the beautiful county of Kent.

unnamed5

Thanks to the generosity of Stour Fishery Association we were able to start working on the Great Stour, an interesting river that begins away from Kent’s chalk downs, yet enjoys the full character of a chalk stream due to significant influxes of groundwater from chalk springs in the river valley. 

We successfully collected our professional ‘benchmark’ samples at five sites. Benchmarking is the first step for any new hub. As well as providing the basis of the training, it also provides a scientifically robust reference point. We will be returning in spring to finish the benchmarking. Some invertebrate species are only found in certain seasons, so sampling in both autumn and spring gives us good coverage.

Once the benchmarks were collected we moved on teaching the SFA volunteers how to perform a 3 minute kick-sweep sample to a near professional standard. This included how to identify the available habitats and divvy up your 3 minutes sampling time accordingly. Varying sizes of bed substrate, plants at the river margins and different types of in-river weed all host their own unique assemblages of invertebrates. For a representative, useful sample it is key to move around and capture all these habitats. The volunteers did a brilliant job getting to grips with the technique.

unnamed
unnamed6
unnamed

For the second part of the day, we said goodbye to the picturesque Godmersham Park and headed to the classroom. Using samples collected from the morning, the volunteers were trained to properly wash their samples using various sieves and begin the challenging process of picking out animals. Invertebrates come in many different forms and most are tiny in size, so this is no small undertaking! Even an expert can spend a whole day simply picking out invertebrates. The beauty of the SmartRivers process is that if you start to go ‘tray blind’ the animals are preserved in alcohol, so you can take as long as you need!

unnamed1

A huge thank you to our trainers, Richard Osmond and Matt Owen-Farmer and of course to the Stour Fishery Association for enrolling into SmartRivers. We look forward to visiting you again in spring for a lesson in identifying your expected species!

If your club or group is interested in being part of SmartRivers drop me a message at smartrivers@salmon-trout.org

We can only run courses with groups of around 10 volunteers, but if you are struggling to find additional volunteers your local Rivers Trust or Wildlife Trust may be able to help! No previous experience is required, but Riverfly Partnership training is handy to have.

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.

Riverfly Partnership News

There are many Riverfly monitoring schemes around, so it can be tricky to understand why so many different schemes are necessary.

As the population continues to expand, and our dependence on the environment increases, it is more important than ever that we keep a close eye on the health of our water ecosystems. Thankfully, there are a wide variety of citizen science schemes available that enable people of all ages and knowledge levels to engage with and monitor the condition of their rivers.

Riverfly monitoring is a brilliant way for volunteers to carry out river health checks.  Freshwater invertebrates spend the majority of their lifecycles as nymphs, where they live underwater, sometimes for years! The abundance and diversity of the invertebrate community present in a river is highly linked with the quality and quantity of the water surrounding them. This relationship allows invertebrates to be used as a diagnostic test. Similar to a blood test, by looking at what’s there and what isn’t, we can derive a wealth of information about their condition.

There are many Riverfly monitoring schemes around, so it can be tricky to understand why so many different schemes are necessary. To address this, together with our colleagues at Riverfly Partnership, we have built a helpful explanation of how SmartRivers, Extended Riverfly and ARMI all fit together. They do provide different types of information for slightly different purposes, but are all hugely important in our fight for healthy waters.

So, whether you choose to volunteer for one scheme, or all of them, please know that your contribution is incredibly valued and from all of us at S&TC and Riverfly Partnership, thank you.

For more information on S&TC’s SmartRivers: www.salmon-trout.org/smart-rivers
For more information on ARMI and Extended Riverfly: www.riverflies.org

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.

SmartRivers is delivering results

The hot dry summer has exposed the stress our rivers are under

Nick Measham, Deputy CEO, S&TC

To view the full interview click HERE

The hot dry summer has exposed the stress our rivers are under – particularly in Southern chalkstreams where algal growth and sediment is choking life to a seemingly unprecedented extent. Once clean gravels are covered in thick mats of algae and river weeds are festooned with tresses of filamentous algae. Elsewhere in England and Wales, lethal fish-killing slurry spills are occurring with distressing frequency.

S&TC’s Riverfly Census and our SmartRivers’ initiative, using volunteers to collect species-level data to Environment Agency (EA) standards, demonstrates the destructive impact agriculture is having on water quality through sediment, phosphate and chemicals leaching into rivers. Sewage works remain a problem – albeit possibly a reducing one if their own monitoring is to be believed which, as a result of the case of Southern Water, we need to remain sceptical about.

Great news then that SmartRivers is spreading rapidly across the country thanks to support from Esmée Fairbairn, Patagonia and others. This volunteer data collection is providing evidence of the good, the bad and the ugly in our rivers.

Lauren Mattingley, S&TC Science Officer said: 

"Since launch in spring this year, the ‘SmartRivers’ effect has begun to spread across the UK. With five hubs established and a further six in the process of enrolment, in just a short period of time SmartRivers has already started to grow."

Autumn 2019 has seen the completion of Wiltshire Fisheries Association's training, the enrolment of Stour Fishery Association in Kent and the first round of volunteer species identification from Bowland Game Fishing Association . Meanwhile back at HQ we are hard at work preparing new species to be added to our app, filling gaps identified by our hubs.

Another focus is the development of our linked database. This will communicate with the Environment Agency’s data and other citizen science data platforms. By ensuring our data speaks to other data, we have the best chance of understanding and alleviating the subtle, often invisible pressures threatening nature’s nursery of wild salmon and trout

The power of this species-level invertebrate data is that it enables the local SmartRivers’ hubs, supported by S&TC, to produce robust and tangible results. The EA’s action to force Bakkavör to stop discharging deadly pesticides washed off imported salads into the headwaters of the Itchen is just one case in point.

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

"The work to get Bakkavor to remove pesticides from its discharge is setting national precedents and changing policy. The local EA has already asked another salad-washer, Vitacress, to take out pesticides from its discharge. We will keep up the pressure until all salad and vegetable processing clean up their act."

On that note, we are hopeful that Bakkavor will be able to employ sophisticated technology to clean its discharge to an acceptable level. We will be keeping up the pressure to ensure this happens as we told the EA in a meeting this week. Other potential actions on the back of SmartRivers’ data are well-advanced in the Hampshire Avon catchment, another SAC river in a poor condition in many places.

Our fundamental aim is to make sure agricultural regulations are observed and enforced if need be. This will not be easy. The resources currently available to the EA to inspect farms are insufficient. A farm is inspected on average once every 200 years. We need all the SmartRivers’ evidence we can muster.

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.