S&TC response to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee consultation over the Agriculture Bill 2018

S&TC's EFRA response

S&TC respond to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee consultation over the Agriculture Bill 2018.

Our Head of Science and Environmental Policy, Dr Janina Gray, recently wrote about the Bill, stating that, while we cautiously welcome the Bill, the devil will be in the detail and especially in the amount of commitment to resources by the Government to enforcing the legislation for the minority of farmers who persistently pollute our rivers and streams.

Read More - Our view: Is a Green Brexit possible?

Read More - View our full response to EFRA

 

What does the Agriculture Bill 2018 propose?

The Bill basically proposes that farmers should still be paid subsidies and grants from Government, as they have been under the EU Common Agricultural Policy, but that public money in future should only be distributed in return for public goods.

In our case, that means genuine protection for our rivers, fish and waterlife, which, under the current system, is by no means assured.

Sediment from poorly managed soils, excess nutrients (especially phosphates), slurry and dry manure from dairy farms and agricultural chemicals all currently pollute waterways and, while it is a minority of farmers who are responsible, it is a significant minority. Furthermore, the connectivity of rivers means that just a few irresponsible farmers in a catchment can negate all the good work of their responsible neighbours.

 

Enforcement required

In our response to EFRA, our legal adviser, Guy Linley-Adams, has highlighted that, far from being  a significant advance in the protection of watercourses from agricultural pollution, the new Reduction and Prevention of Agricultural Diffuse Pollution (England) Regulations 2018, passed earlier this year, merely repeats the codes of good practice dating back as far as 1985.

True, the new Regulations make certain poor agricultural practices a criminal offence; but previous codes and legislation were not all voluntary, and yet enforcement has been sadly lacking for three decades. Many of our rivers have steadily declined in health over that time.

Read our response to EFRA

 

Moving forward

The Agriculture Bill now gives us all an opportunity to make sure the new 2018 Regulations are met on all farms, by ensuring that, in future, farmers who do not meet the new Regulations cannot be given public money.

As Guy says,

“To deal with the stubborn problems of agricultural diffuse pollution, the new system must combine the ‘stick’ approach of regulation, inspection and enforcement, with the ‘carrot’ of public money for public goods.”

Please read our full response, together with our analysis of past codes of good practice - codes which failed sufficiently to protect our rivers and streams from that minority of poor-performing farmers.

S&TC hopes that the 2018 Bill becomes a progressive act, setting a baseline minimum performance for all farmers, as well as dangling the carrot of public money for public goods.

Agricultural Bill: Is a ‘Green Brexit’ possible?

The first major Agriculture Bill for over 70 years has now been published, promising a cleaner, greener and healthier environment post Brexit

Currently farmers receive €4 billion in subsides each year, which is divided up related to the total amount of land farmed. For current subsidies farmers do not need to ‘do’ anything.

The new Bill proposes farmers are paid for delivering public goods; things we cannot buy in a shop, like clean water, flood attenuation, thriving wildlife and healthy soils.

 

Funding a 'Green Brexit'

The headlines are good. But as with everything, the devil will be in the detail.

This new approach will need substantial investment and coordination to ensure the right public goods happen in the right places for people and wildlife.

And the big elephant in the room is the funding. How do the Government plan to fund their ‘Green Brexit’? No details have been given on this so far.

 

Carrot vs Stick

The Government reiterated at the launch that they were committed to:

“maintaining a strong regulatory baseline, with enforcement mechanisms that are proportionate and effective”.

This is where we at S&TC have the greatest concern.

Current enforcement is just not fit for purpose. It is totally under-resourced.

We are all for having a big juicy carrot for farmers, but it must be accompanied by an equally proportionate stick where required.

The data from our own Riverfly Census indicates that many rivers in England and Wales are suffering from the impacts of excess phosphates and fine sediments from poor agricultural practices. This impacts wild fish populations, from smothering their spawning redds, to reducing the invertebrates they feed on.

For the small minority of farmers which do pollute, sometimes repetitively, strong action must be taken.

 

What happens next

The Bill proposes a long timetable, where the current system of payments under the Common Agricultural Policy will continue until 2021, then a seven-year transition period to the new system, where the old payments will gradually taper off.

Like most environmental charities, we have lobbied for years for this vision where farmers are rewarded for delivering for the environment- creating a sustainable future for farming and the environment alike.

We will see over the next few months, as the Agriculture Bill makes its way through Parliament, if that vision can survive.

However, in order to achieve a truly cleaner, greener and healthier environment post Brexit, enforcement, or the current lack of it, must be addressed too.

To help us take action against agricultural pollution visit our ‘see it, photograph it, report it’ campaign.

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By Dr Janina Gray, Head of Science & Policy at S&TC

Dwindling flylife evidences a worrying decline of the River Test

Decline of the River Test

The River Test is one of our most famous, if not the most famous, trout river in the country; yet we have significant evidence that it is sadly in decline.

Furthermore, we can now point the finger firmly in the direction of  Chilbolton and Fullerton Waste Water Sewage Works; or, more aptly, the permits which legally condone their destructive discharge.

 

How do we know the River Test is in trouble? 

Healthy ecosystems mean healthy waterways; if the invertebrate life is in trouble, then so too is the river. Aside from sustaining the food-chain, river insects are incredibly susceptible to certain chemicals and excess sediment and phosphate, so they also provide an excellent indicator of overall water health and issues.

Unfortunately, our River Test Riverfly Census (full report due in September) records a significant decline in riverfly and gammarus numbers between 2015 to 2017, at the Mayfly Inn.

Moreover, the data provides important evidence of the pressures facing flylife on the River Test, helping us understand what is happening and what can be done to improve the water environment and its wildlife.

Sadly, the decline in flylife on the middle reaches of the River Test is not news.

Dr Cyril Bennett and Warren Gilchrist have charted the decline in the Blue-Winged Olive population at Leckford - just downstream of our Census sample site at the Mayfly Inn – since 1995.

This decline in flylife matters not only for fish and other river creatures – invertebrates are the base of the aquatic food chain - but also for anglers, and anyone else who respects this iconic river and the creatures that reside there.

 

Why is this decline happening?

Dr Cyril Bennett has now produced a report which, together with our Mayfly Inn results, throws more light on the causes of the problem.

This data show us that elevated levels of phosphate and sediment are the overwhelmingly likely cause of the problem. (Phosphate and sediment, when present in such excess, cause a choking of the river and are essentially destructive to life).

This is supported by the Environment Agency’s own in-river phosphate data. Their data shows that phosphate levels in the Test (at the Mayfly Inn) are consistently at least double than what is expected for a chalk-stream. This has been an increasing ominous trend since 2012.

 

Decline of River Test

 

Why is there so much sediment and phosphate?

Two Waste Water Treatment Works (WWTW) discharge into the Test directly above the Mayfly Inn sampling site: Chilbolton and Fullerton.

Chilbolton slashed its discharges in 2007 after an upgrade. Fullerton, a much bigger operation, is reporting a steady increase in its phosphate discharge levels.

Our suspicion is that the Fullerton works is under increasing pressure from the growth of Andover. Both these works have phosphate stripping technology and appear to be within their current consent levels.

The problem, indicated by our results, is that these consent levels are far too high for the river’s ecology. This is a depressingly familiar national story.

The WWTWs are not the only source of phosphate and sediment – septic tanks and agriculture play a role – but they are one main source of the problem.

 

What is being done?

Based on S&TC's independent research and the work of Dr Cyril Bennett, the Environment Agency is now working with Southern Water to reduce its discharge of phosphate. The long-term target for the river is 30 micrograms/litre with an interim (2021) target of 40 micrograms/litre.

The problem is that Southern Water (and all other water companies) are given far too long (6 years under current regulation) to make these necessary changes.

We continue to lobby to get the companies to up their game sooner rather than later.

Perhaps Mr Gove, or whoever will be the Environment Secretary after the summer holidays, will shorten the investment cycle.

Fullerton was clearly performing much better in the recent past, so why cannot Southern Water act now?

 

Where can you find out more?

Full results from our survey for the River Test (supported in 2017/2018 by the Test & Itchen Association) will be released in September - please check our Riverfly Census page for more info.

We receive no government funding for our important research, which, critically, allows us to pressure the EA with complete impartiality. If you want to help us protect chalk-streams both locally and nationally, and contribute to the ongoing fight to preserve our precious freshwater ecosystems, then please consider joining us as member or making a donation.

 

 

We rely on your support to protect wild fish

and the places they live

By donating or joining as a member you will be making a huge contribution to the fight to protect the UK's waters and ensure a sustainable future for wild fish.

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Afon Myddyfi – Photo Story

What is happening on the Myddfyi?

The Myddyfi rises from a network of ditches and drains to the north of Salem, in the heart of rural Carmarthenshire, and flows first to the southwest, and then southwards towards Pentrefelin, before joining the Tywi at Cilsan.

It appears to enjoy good health along much of its 8km length, as witnessed at Birdshill Bridge, only a little over a kilometre from its confluence with the Tywi:

Just a short distance downstream of a confluence with a small stream which passes close to a stock feeding station, evidence of siltation is clearly visible:

Half a kilometre downstream and now on the valley floor, the Myddyfi shows increasing signs of nutrient enrichment with extensive algal growth covering the whole of the riverbed:

Finally, at its confluence with the Tywi, the combined nutrient load of both rivers results in extraordinary amounts of filamentous algae clinging to every available surface:

Richard Garner Williams, of S&TC Cymru, said,

“A certain amount of algal growth is to be expected at this time of year, particularly under the exceptional weather conditions we are currently experiencing, but this is far in excess of what would be expected with a natural bloom.

That the Myddyfi shows such a dramatic change in nutrient levels over such a short distance strongly suggests that external agents are having a profound impact along its lower reaches.”

River Avon: Riverfly Census Results

River Avon Riverfly Census

The results are in from our ground-breaking Riverfly Census campaign for the River Avon. View the results below and read more about what we found, why it is important, and what we are doing next!

What is the River Avon Riverfly Census campaign about?

Our campaign is to reverse the decline in water quality in the Avon. Water quality (or the lack of it) determines the ability of a river to support life.

Our Riverfly Census along the River Avon has revealed significantly less water insects than should be present, trending downwards by up to 50% since 2015, due mainly to excessive phosphorus and sediment in the water.

How does this campaign affect salmon and trout?

Water insects are an accurate measure of water health, and in the River Avon (designated a Special Area of Conservation) they are under significant pressure from phosphorus, sediment pollution and pesticides. We know this from our independent professional surveying - our 3 year-long Riverfly Census - which is unique to S&TC and highly rigorous across the UK.

Specifically, our research has unearthed a surprising decline in Blue Winged Olive flies, a crucial part of the river food web and a staple in any chalk stream. Loss of such an important species definitely indicates a cry for help in the Avon, and directly impacts the health and abundance of salmon and trout. Other stats show distributing downward trends:

  • Over 60% of sites showed worrying chemical footprints in Autumn 2017
  • Over 50% decrease in numbers of different mayflies at Stratford Bridge since 2015
  • Over 52% decreases in the amount of all species at Ham Hatches since 2017

We have summarised these findings into a simple one-page fact sheet, perfect for sharing. Please view this here.

Alternately, we welcome you to view and share the full report and data sheet.

Phosphorus and sediment do occur naturally in rivers in small amounts, but in excessive quantities are lethal to water insects. They promote algal growth, which chokes the river of life and negatively impacts egg development of invertebrates through suffocation. We believe these stressors are responsible for the shortage in these essential insects. The EA have similarly demonstrated that there is too much phosphorus in the river from their own monitoring.

Excessive quantities of phosphorus and sediment can be caused by many things, including fertilisers, septic tanks, road run-off, loose soil from farming practices, dust, dirt, and sewage. Indeed, the Amesbury and Ratfyn Sewage Treatment Works have had an increasing upward trend of phosphorus in their final effluent (2012-2017 data), which we suspect is a large contributory factor.

Overall, the River Avon ranked No.1 in terms of health and vitality in our 2015 Riverfly Census; now in 2018 it has significantly declined and taken a turn for the worst. At some sights, mayfly species had declined almost 40% since 2015, and Stratford Bridge declined by over 50% in 2017 compared to 2015 & 2016.

 

View the fact sheet, report and data here:

What is our plan to tackle these issues?

At S&TC, our entire model is fact based campaigning. As such, our full technical report from the Avon has been taken to the Environment Agency (the regulator) and other river stakeholders (such as Wessex Water). We are seeking to influence change by finding more conservation friendly ways forward.

Together with SADAC, we have formally registered our concern with the EA that there is too much phosphorus in the river. We are due to meet with them imminently to discuss their response to our request for action.

A nutrient management plan has been developed by the EA and Natural England to address poor water quality caused by phosphorus contributions from the upper catchment, but we are not yet seeing significant results.

We have therefore met with Wessex Water to present our data and concerns regarding the Amesbury and Ratfyn Sewage Treatment Works, and we continue to pressure them to improve discharge.

The next step is further research, to strengthen our case and force the EA to listen. 

How can you help?

The invertebrate data has indicated that the main problem is phosphorus, so we now need further, more specific, independent data to move forward with the EA and produce real change.

We need to raise money to carry out high-resolution phosphorous monitoring on the River Avon, which involves placing chemical monitoring units at specific sites. We already own these units, but sampling costs at each site are upwards of £3,000 a year, and we need to run at least 4 sites (including monitors above and below the sewage treatment works).

We are looking to individuals, businesses and organisations local to the Avon, or passionate about maintaining this iconic stretch of river, to help us meet this goal. Please support us in protecting one of Britain’s finest and most vulnerable chalk streams. Your funds help us in the following way:

  • £14 runs a sampler at one site for one day
  • £50 analyses one sample from one site
  • £100 runs a sampler at one site for a week
  • £3,000 runs a sampling site for an entire year

Additionally, it is important to note that we are taking a much wider view of the issues on the Avon, beyond just sewage. A wider problem, in our view, is bad agricultural practices; which we continue to research into - both the problems and potential solutions - and work with the EA to influence change. This is where longer-term support of our work is vital; and we gratefully thank our members for their ongoing help.

How else can you support us?

In many places the river still looks beautiful, but of course you can’t really see phosphorus. So alongside funding our research, we also need to educate people on ‘invisible threats’ and what is happening beneath the surface. The sharing of this research is the first step in highlighting, and educating on, these unseen issues in the Avon.

Action is required NOW. Over the next 3 to 5 years the pressure on the river will only increase as we expand as a population (for example, there is extensive building in the Avon Valley, and the army is soon re-basing at Salisbury). This means increased pressure on sewage works and increased run-off into the river, so the EA urgently need to establish control.

Please assist us in spreading the word about the opportunities to improve the River Avon by sharing this content with locals, anglers, nature and water enthusiasts, wildlife lovers, relevant NGO’s and charities, and anyone else who may be interested or able to assist us. Download everything you need below:

We rely on your support to protect wild fish

and the places they live

By donating or joining as a member you will be making a huge contribution to the fight to protect the UK's waters and ensure a sustainable future for wild fish.

S&TC Cymru: Snapshot survey of the River Tywi (Towy)

S&TC Cymru has reacted to growing concerns surrounding the prolific algal growth witnessed on the Tywi over recent weeks by conducting a snapshot survey of the most affected part of the river.

Conditions at the time of the visit (11th of June 2018) reflected a prolonged absence of rain coupled with long days of largely uninterrupted sunlight. This had resulted in reduced, but not unseasonably low, water levels.

Algal growth in backwaters and shallows is not untypical under such conditions, but the extent of the observed examples immediately suggested the river to be carrying elevated levels of nutrients:

As local land owner, Sir Edward Dashwood explains:

"I am very concerned about the health of the Towy. Over the last few years there has been a marked decline in the water quality and a huge increase in pollution levels, which is affecting not only fish but all sorts of life in the river."

 

What does our sampling tell us?

The greater part of the renowned Golden Grove fishery was found to be suffering from extensive growths of filamentous algae (species not identified), to the extent that meaningful kick sampling over much of its length proved impossible:

Ranunculus aquatilis or common water-crowfoot was conspicuous by its absence. The few strands that remained were largely, if not completely, choked with filamentous algae.

Where it was possible to sample, the results revealed abundant numbers of:

  • BWO nymphs (±70)
  • Small cased caddis (±30)

... but low numbers of other groups of riverflies:

  • Baetidae (±10)
  • Heptagenidae (±4)
  • Stoneflies (±10)
  • Caseless caddis (4)

Gammarus (3) were also noticeably few in number.

The relative paucity of the latter groups suggests that their environment is under long term stress, while the profusion of filamentous algae clearly indicates that the river is carrying a nutrient load far in excess of natural levels.

(Sample taken at  51°52'20.6"N 4°00'54.8"W - Google maps link https://goo.gl/maps/caD32dB8DBm )

 

What is causing such prolific algal growth?

High algal abundance continued above the outfall of a sewage treatment works, indicating that other sources of nutrients must exist upstream of this point.

Furthermore, given the relatively low human population in the surrounding area, it is unlikely that leakage or discharge from domestic sewage services would be sufficient to have such an extensive impact.

 

What might be the cause of the problem?

Local anecdotal reports of repeated spreading of farmyard slurry across large areas of land within close proximity to the river would suggest that direct run off, or long term leaching, might, at the very least, be a contributory factor.  

As Sir Edward explains:

"Many smaller farms have now ceased dairy farming completely in the Towy Valley, but the few that remain have upped their numbers to an extraordinary level, milking many hundreds of cows each."

Examination of the river at Llangadog, some six miles upstream told a very different story. Ranunculus was flourishing and the river bed showed no signs of algal growth:

This story was repeated further upstream again at Llandovery where fish were seen rising and also on the Afon Bran, a minor tributary where ranunculus grew in profusion:

 

What can be done?

Despite the brevity of the visit, it is clear from our observations that the Tywi is suffering significant nutrient enrichment along its length between Llangadog and Llandeilo.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that the enrichment may be a consequence of slurry dispersal on fields across the valley floor between these two points, but a further, more detailed investigation would be required to establish whether this is from a single source or more diffuse in nature.

As Sir Edward says:

"Not only is this of concern, but these factory operations can no longer keep their stock on straw in the traditional manner, and there is little place for their slurry to end up, one way or another, but in or near the river.

For the sake of future generations we have to work with them and find a way to help them urgently address these issues."

Should further investigations confirm slurry to be the culprit, the possibility exists of veterinary pharmaceutical products such as antihelmintics also entering the river and impacting upon invertebrate species.

Given the prevailing absence of rain it might also be possible that the nutrients could be leaching from the surrounding area via groundwater. This might explain the persistence of the algal growth in the river and would point to excessive nutrient levels at soil depths, beyond the reach of the roots of grasses and other crops.

In the absence of any other obvious evidence it is highly probable that the algal growth and reduced numbers of invertebrates observed in the River Tywi are indicative of excessive nutrients entering its waters as a consequence of the repeated spreading of farmyard slurry over extensive areas of land on the valley floor.

 

Dai Roberts (independent Riverfly monitor)

By Richard Garner Williams, S&TC Cymru  

Our View: Post-Brexit Green Watchdog is not good enough

Alas, it seems as though our fears for environmental regulation once we lave the EU - based on a post Brexit Green Watchdog - are being realised.  

The much-heralded independent statutory environmental body to take the place of the EU’s DG Environment when we leave Europe will not have any real power, even though The Secretary of State, Michael Gove, promised it would.  

 

No legal teeth

To be fair, he probably does want an overriding environmental keeper with the teeth necessary to hold the Government to account, but it seems as though the Treasury has, as usual, had the last word - the environment must not be allowed to get in the way of economic growth and sustainable development.

So, although there was initial enthusiasm when we heard that EU environmental law would be transferred into UK legislation post-Brexit, apparently with even stronger protection for habitats and species than Europe provided, those words seem a little hollow just now.

Mr Gove disagrees, of course.

He insists that the Environmental Principles and Governance Bill, due to be published in the autumn, will ensure that ‘core environmental principles will remain central to Government policy and decision making’, and will help deliver a greener Brexit and the vision set out in the Government’s 25-Year Environment Plan.

However, without the legal teeth to independently challenge Government policy, Mr Gove’s Green Watchdog can never replace the ‘Sword of Damocles’ that the EU has held over our national decision-makers.

 

S&TC within the EU

While being in the EU, we have always had DG Environment, the EU’s own environmental watchdog, as a final arbiter if we couldn’t get UK Governments to take their international responsibilities seriously.

For example, it was S&TC’s complaint to the EU under the Habitats Directive that was the catalyst which closed down the Scottish commercial coastal salmon netting fisheries in 2016, an action the Scottish Government would never have taken without pressure from Europe, despite the accepted international view that such fisheries are bad management practice

It was another of S&TC’s complaints that has turned out to be an omen for future of the Government’s 25-Year Environment Plan.  We complained to DG Environment over the Hampshire Avon's failure to meet conservation targets for salmon - some 6 years ago now - although the basis of the complaint was actually the myriad of planned measures for the river over 25 years which were never actioned.  The complaint didn't get very far over the target issue - the EU prefers complaints to cover more than one river - but DG Environment latterly used it as an example of a state producing plans, strategies, reviews, reports etc but never actually delivering anything.

 

The Future

So, without wanting to appear too cynical, unless we can have a post-Brexit environmental watchdog with legal power to hold the Government to account, this 25-year Environment Plan looks as though it could go the way of its predecessors – after an initial burst of enthusiasm around its creation and launch, it will be left to gather dust on the Government's shelf.

That is the challenge facing the NGO community as we head for Brexit – and one over which S&TC will join forces with all the other environmental organisations within Wildlife & Countryside Link to lobby as hard as we possibly can, with the support of our 8 million plus members, for proper legal environmental protection – in our case for wild fish and all other water-dependent wildlife, and the diverse habitats upon which they depend. 

 

- Words above by Paul Knight, S&TC CEO

We rely on your support to protect wild fish

and the places they live

By donating or joining as a member you will be making a huge contribution to the fight to protect the UK's waters and ensure a sustainable future for wild fish.

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Wales Update: Agricultural Pollution, Wales Link & Species Champs

Welsh Agricultural Pollution

We have been involved in tackling agricultural pollution with a number of different organisations. One of our tools has been a  joint letter to Lesley Griffiths, Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs.

The letter highlighted the chronic and pervasive issue of agricultural pollution in Wales, signed by a number of organisations including Wildlife Trusts Wales, WWF Cymru, RSPB Cymru, Afonydd Cyrmu, Salmon and Trout Conservation Cymru and Butterfly Conservation Cymru.

We subsequently met with Ms Griffiths to further express our concerns on the 23rd of April, taking the opportunity to discuss appropriate measures, including regulation, to help stop agricultural pollution poisoning our rivers. We are still waiting to hear what steps, if any, the Welsh Government are willing to take to bring an end to agricultural pollution.

Tackling this urgent issue is a watershed moment and a key test for Welsh Government's new environmental legislation.

You can understand these issues by reading the letter here: Letter to Cab Sec Lesley Griffiths - Agricultural Pollution.

Species Champs

The Species Champion project pairs at-risk species with elected politicians, giving political representation and awareness to wildlife under threat. AMs are kept briefed on their species and up to date on population developments and habitat initiatives.

We have joined with Buglife Cymru as lead organisations for the Yellow Mayfly, Potamanthus luteus, and we hope very soon to find a willing AM to become its Champion in the Senedd (public building of the National Assembly).

We are also leading with Afonydd Cymru (Welsh Rivers Trusts) on the brown trout, whose Species Champion is Kirsty Williams AM; with the Llywydd (Presiding Officer of the National Assembly) on the sea trout, whose species champion is Elin Jones AM; and on the European eel with Dawn Boden AM as its Species Champion.

Read more about the Brown Trout and species Champion Kirsty Williams by downloading this fact sheet: Brown Trout Species Briefing.

Kirsty Williams AM Brown Trout Species Champ

 

Learn more about the sewin (sea trout) and species champ Elin Jones by downloading the sewin fact sheet.

Elin Jones AM Species Champion for the sewin (Sea Trout)

 

Wales Environment Link Statement

We also contributed to and supported the recent Wales Environment Link statement on freshwater pollution.

This was a follow up to the 2013 “Valuing our Freshwaters” pamphlet which was co-authored by S&TC.

As our Wales director, Richard Garner Williams says,

“Agricultural pollution is having a devastating effect on our rivers and there is little evidence to indicate that anyone is anywhere close to bringing it under control.

As a full member of WEL, S&TC Cymru wholly endorses this statement and calls on Welsh Government and the intensive agriculture sector to take meaningful action before our rivers and their wild fish are lost forever.”

You can read the statement here: Restoring our Freshwaters.

 

We rely on your support to protect wild fish

and the places they live

By donating or joining as a member you will be making a huge contribution to the fight to protect the UK's waters and ensure a sustainable future for wild fish.

Stay up to date with our latest news & press releases

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

Have your say on rivers in Wales

Rivers in Wales: have your say

Many of the rivers in Wales are facing a range of ecological threats which threaten to render them unfit for the wild fish and other aquatic wildlife that depend on clean freshwaters to survive.

Building on the success of last year’s inaugural spring seminar, we have decided to provide another opportunity for stakeholders from all sides of the debate to share their views and help drive forward the changes required to protect these precious freshwater environments.

This year’s seminar will be held at the Royal Welsh Showground in Builth Wells on Tuesday, April the 3rd.

Our Welsh National Officer Richard Garner Williams explains the significance of this event:

“It was evident from our seminar last year that a change in priorities and approach is required if we are to manage the land without detriment to the rivers in Wales.

As the only wholly independent charity campaigning for wild fish and their environment we are in a good position to act as mediator and catalyst in encouraging stakeholders to progress from the discussion stage and implement change.”

Many rivers in Wales are currently suffering from alarming levels of pollution from source to sea.

In the uplands, forestry plantations are causing the acidification of spawning grounds and nursery areas to the point that they are incapable of sustaining any complex life forms while in the lowlands, chronic and acute pollution arising from intensive agricultural practices is having a devastating effect, not only on fish but also on aquatic invertebrates such as mayflies, sedges and dragonflies as well as freshwater plantlife. This, in turn, is affecting the fortunes of other species such as kingfishers, dippers and otters which cannot survive without a flourishing freshwater environment.

Richard Garner Williams continues:

“It is appalling that many of our rivers in Wales are under as much threat from human activity now as they were at the height of the Industrial Revolution.

Agricultural pollution affects some 180 individual waterbodies in Wales and the number of reported pollution incidents shows no sign of a decline.

Restoring the health of the rivers in Wales to their former glory is paramount, and this year’s seminar will present the opportunity for us to dig deeper into the principle challenges arising from land management and identify workable and immediate solutions.”

The seminar will run from 10.00am to 3.00pm and will include a light lunch. A full list of contributors will be available in due course.

The event is free to attend for all those interested in the future health of rivers in Wales. To book a place to attend, please contact: Richard Garner Williams by email on: wales@salmon-trout.org. Places will be limited, so please book early in order to participate and have your say at this significant event.