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

Prix Charles Ritz Award 2019 celebrates river conservation in England and Wales

The International Fario Club, with assistance from Salmon & Trout Conservation, have this year launched the Prix Charles Ritz award for England and Wales, to honour projects here helping to preserve our rivers for future generations.

Recognising environmental initiatives on the rivers we cherish

This year the Prix Charles Ritz is launching an award in England and Wales for
individuals/communities who make a difference to the rivers they cherish. A monetary
donation will be awarded to individuals or communities who, through their project(s) in
England or Wales, exhibit the utmost devotion and commitment to the environment.

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

Rivers are influenced by human activity, both upstream and downstream. However what goes on beneath the surface is mostly hidden from sight and unknown, with water often appearing much healthier than it really is. The issues impacting rivers are numerous, and fish sadly do not receive the same public conservation attention as more ‘cuddly’ mammals; yet the plight of our freshwater habitats has never been more deserving of attention, and their ecosystem and wildlife never in greater need of our protection.

The aim of the award is therefore to cherish the rivers to which we all belong, which was an important legacy of the late and great Charles Ritz, after whom the award is named.

In memory of international river advocate, Charles Ritz

Few people have contributed as much to the evolution of fly fishing and environmental awareness as Charles César Ritz, born in 1891. French born, Charles emigrated to the United States in 1916, where he mastered the art of fly-fishing and became one of the foremost specialists on the subject, eventually inventing the famous parabolic fly-rod.

Author of the internationally treasured ‘Pris sur le Vif’ (‘A Fly Fishers Life’), Charles César Ritz was a pioneer in ecology, a defender of river quality, and a passionate, well travelled, fly fisher; his skills famously endorsed by Ernest Hemingway. His favourite rivers included the Test, Avon, and Itchen in Southern England, where he helped to popularise catch and release.

In 1958, Charles Ritz created the International Fario Club to keep an eye on river quality & ecosystem health. The club brought together five continents with a shared passion for fly fishing and conservation.

Passing away in 1976, at the age of eighty-five, Charles left a genuine legacy in both conservation and fly fishing. Today, his beloved Fario Club continue to promote river health and further his conservation efforts through the aptly named Charles Ritz award. By highlighting and rewarding the improvement and restoration of aquatic environments, the incredible work of this ecological pioneer lives on, and our freshwater ecosystems remain an urgent environmental priority amid increasing pressures.

Applications

The award is aimed at restoration projects, large or small, and/or community projects with the core objective of improving the river environment and the species which depend upon them. This may be achieved through direct action or education, or a mixture of both.

Judges will be looking for a solid rationale and evidence of river improvements; as such applicants will need to submit photographic evidence of their works and a detailed explanation of both the objectives and the results. A range of resources could be used to highlight the impact of the work, for example media coverage, monitoring results, before and after pictures and any relevant documents which demonstrate the scope and success of the work.

How to apply

All applications with projects undertaken in England and Wales are accepted. Applicants can download an application form here. The application form must be returned by 31st August 2019  to prixcharlesritz@gmail.com

The judging panel will compile a short list of 3 applicants and visit these projects over the summer. The winner will be notified in late November, and an awards ceremony held in the beginning of 2020.

For more info please visit: http://www.prixcharlesritz.org/?lang=en

Quick Links

Terms and Conditions

Prix Charles Ritz will use the material from any entry or prize winner in its promotional literature, or on its website, or in other publicity as may be appropriate, unless you advise at the time of entry that you do not wish to take part. Copyright in any and all material submitted by the applicant(s) will remain with the applicant(s), although by submitting an entry, the applicant agrees to the organisation using material as described in these terms.

Prize winners agree to attend the Awards Ceremony and presentation.

By entering the Conservation Awards you are providing your information to Prix Charles Ritz and no other party. The information you provide will be used in conjunction with the Prix Charles Ritz privacy policy, which should be read in addition to these terms and conditions. 

Running for wild fish: S&TC supporter takes on ultra marathon

Run Phil, Run

Avid fly fisherman, conservationist and S&TC supporter Phil Chessum will be running an ultra-marathon to raise funds for our hugely important work.

Phil has committed to running the 'Race to the Kings' on the 22nd and 23rd June - a double marathon along the breathtaking South Downs Way which culminates in a magnificent finish on the steps of Winchester Cathedral. You can find out more about the event here.

running for wild fish

We are incredibly proud and grateful that Phil has chosen our work to benefit from his "marathon" efforts! We would like to highlight Phil's sponsorship page and ask that all our members spread the word, and consider a donation to the fund.

You can support Phil and S&TC by making a donation on his Virgin Money page:

A special thank you goes to Phil. An ultra marathon is no mean feat, and we wish you all the best with your training and on race day!

Phil's sponsorship money will go directly towards conserving wild salmon and sea trout via our action on water quality and salmon farming.

If you are undertaking a special challenge or event, or would like more information on fundraising for us, please contact our Fundraising Manager, Guy Edwards on Guy@salmon-trout.org.

We gratefully welcome all support, whatever the size and scope- from ultra marathons to coffee mornings, from membership to one off donations, and much more.

The S&TC official Virgin Money page can be found here, should you wish to initiate your own event or fundraising idea.

S&TC ask Sir David Attenborough to talk Salmon for IYS

For International Year of the Salmon, we asked Sir David Attenborough for his views on the need to protect the species.

We say that to save wild salmon, Governments across the Northern Hemisphere need to act now.

The following video gives a very clear message about this, if we are not going to lose the ‘King of Fish’ for ever!

We will continue our current work on reforming unsustainable salmon farming in Scotland and improving water quality, both vital issues affecting the health of wild salmon populations.

However, the greater support we receive, the more influential we can be. Please support us as we continue our hard work.

You can also support us by sharing and engaging with this content far and wide on our various social channels:

Bakkavor ends use of cleaning products containing chlorine

Bakkavor has stopped using chlorine-based cleaning products at its Alresford Salads salad washing and packaging factory near Alresford.

This means that the chemicals used every night to clean the factory’s equipment will not be able to react to form chloramines which are highly toxic to water life even in extremely low concentrations. The EA and others stopped Bakkavor using chlorine in the daytime salad washing water some years ago.

This is one small victory in our campaign to stop Bakkavor’s salad washing factory at Alresford polluting the headwaters of the River Itchen SAC and SSSI - one of our finest and most highly protected chalkstreams.

However, two huge issues remain:

  • The overnight cleaning products are still being discharged straight into the upper reaches of the Itchen rather than to the sewage system;
  • Pesticides washed off the salad crops are also entering the river via an adjoining watercress bed with no monitoring for these potential lethal pesticides taking place.

The solution to the overnight wash is clear: under the precautionary principle, it must be tankered away or connected to the sewer (as Vitacress does at its nearby plant on the Bourne Rivulet). We find it incredible that industrial effluent should be discharged to any river. Bakkavor will howl about the cost but why should any business, let alone a multi-million pound one, be allowed to dump potentially toxic chemicals in the headwaters of a SAC river.

The pesticides could be an even bigger threat to the Itchen. We notified the EA formally last summer about our discovery of a potential pesticide impact below the discharge point from Alresford Salads and the discharge point from the watercress bed operated by The Watercress Company (TWC). The water used to wash the salads is pumped to this adjoining watercress bed, flows through the cress beds and then discharges into the river.  TWC’s discharge permit has no pesticide monitoring conditions. Thus, it is possible this potentially lethal pesticide brew has been entering the Itchen without any monitoring.

After our intervention, the EA has been carrying out intensive pesticide monitoring of these discharges and is due to report soon. We await the results with interest. Whatever the outcome, it seems clear that pesticides washed off the salads should be monitored and, if present in harmful quantities, removed whatever the cost.

375,000+ citizens tell the European Commission “Hands off our water law!”

375,386 people have called on the European Commission to defend Europe’s strong water law, making the EU’s public consultation on the legislation one of the largest ever in the history of the European Union.

This law is critical to ensure that Europe’s rivers, lakes and wetlands are protected and brought back to good health. As our Head of Science and Environmental Policy, Dr Janina Gray, explains:

"The Water Framework Directive gives a basic protection for our rivers and waterlife, and has resulted over the years in millions of pounds of investment, mainly from water companies.  Any weakening of the WFD standards would have catastrophic implications for our waterways and wild fish.

Over 375,000 people have spoken, sending a clear message that the WFD’ standards must remain as they are. This is of paramount importance in driving Government commitment to the protection of our rivers, streams and wild fish following Brexit."

Find out more: Protect Water

The NGO-led #ProtectWater campaign inspired citizens across Europe and beyond to take a stand for Europe’s rivers, lakes and wetlands, and the strong law which protects them, the EU Water Framework Directive, during the European Commission’s ongoing fitness-check.

“375,386 citizens have spoken up for Europe’s precious rivers, lakes and wetlands, and against their ongoing destruction. They have told their governments loud and clear not to undermine the EU water law - decision-makers must now listen up and take these voices seriously”

said Ester Asin, Director of WWF’s European Policy Office,

“With 60% of Europe’s waters in a critical state, the need for action from Member States is urgent. They were meant to put a stop to this destruction when they signed up to the Water Framework Directive in 2000, but, instead, have spent the best part of two decades brazenly side-stepping their commitments and not implementing it. We urge them to own up to their inaction today and, instead of pushing for this law to be changed, take citizens' views on board.”

The #ProtectWater campaign was led by WWF, the European Environmental Bureau, the European Anglers Alliance, the European Rivers Network and Wetlands International - who together form the Living Rivers Europe Coalition.

It facilitated citizens’ participation in the European Commission’s public consultation on the Water Framework Directive (the only opportunity for the general public to have its say during the EU fitness-check) to express their clear opposition to changing the legislation. It was launched in October 2018 and went on to be supported by more than 130 civil society organisations, including national partners and offices of Greenpeace, BirdLife and Friends of the Earth, as well as unions.

The EU’s official analysis of the public consultation, which closed on 11 March, is likely to be published in the autumn of 2019, with the final decision on the future of the legislation expected by the first half of 2020.

As Living Rivers Europe, we will be there every step of the way to ensure that the Water Framework Directive remains intact, and will continue to push for this visionary legislation to be fully implemented by Member States and enforced by the European Commission so that it that the vast majority of Europe’s waters are returned to good health by 2027 (at the absolute latest).

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.

Septic tanks – the UK’s secret sewage problem

Septic tanks are not the most glamorous topic...

...But they are definitely the ‘elephant in the room’ when it comes to protecting our waters from nutrient pollution.

What are septic tanks?

There are a vast array of homes that are not linked up to main sewage treatment works. Where properties are located at least 50 metres from a sewer, septic tanks or package treatment plants are the dominant method of sewage disposal.

Septic tanks are essentially underground tanks. Solids sink to the bottom, forming sludge, and liquid flows into a drainage field, where bacteria take out the bad bits as it soaks into the ground. When used and maintained properly these ‘micro-treatment works’ do their job very well.

Why are septic tanks an issue?

It seems quite obvious, but to keep our wild fish and other water life thriving, they need a sewage-free place to live.

Wastewater contains nitrogen and phosphorus from human waste, food, certain soaps and detergents. If a septic tank is not operating correctly, these nutrients are discharged into watercourses. Excess nutrients are bad news for river systems.

There are a variety of reasons why septic systems fail, but one of the most common is poor maintenance. For example, irregular septic tank emptying may cause solids in the tank to block the soakaway and clog the complete system, increasing the risk of an environmentally damaging incident.

Another big issue is regulation around these micro-treatment works. Despite more rigorous regulations being recently introduced for installation of new septic tanks, the vast quantity of unregistered older systems still remain, with their condition and effectiveness largely a mystery.

Rules around septic tanks are also mostly advisory with a lack of top-level ownership around the issue. The absence of a single authority control has led to frequent installation of systems with inadequate drainfield designs, in unsuitable locations and with no common policy covering their registration or maintenance. Systematic inspections are also lacking, currently only discharges of larger systems with specific permits are routinely monitored for discharge quality.

What you can do

To keep our rivers healthy and bursting with life we need your help to keep them sewage-free.

  • If you are a septic tank owner, be responsible & educated.
  • There is some fantastic information around that will answer any questions you have. One of our favourite resources is http://www.callofnature.info/
  • If you know other family and friends with this kind of system, share your knowledge!
  • Report incidents - If you see a suspicious septic tank discharge to your local river, report it! Send us a photograph and a google maps location and we’ll happily take a look.