Phosphorus, Chickens and the River Wye

S&TC’s agricultural policy is simple; incentivise farmers to invest in their infrastructure and spread the word about modern soil management, but always be prepared to use the current legislation to regulate persistent offenders...

Paul Knight, S&TC Fisheries Consultant

George Monbiot writing in the Guardian recently highlighted the dreadful state of Welsh rivers.  He focussed on the Wye, where intensive chicken farming discharges phosphate (P) at far greater levels than the safe carrying capacity of the river, leading to awful water quality and subsequent impact on its wildlife.  The NFU hang on the coattails of Natural Resources Wales, who state that P has improved in the river over recent years, but rather than crow that excess nutrient is no longer a problem, it is important to understand the way P acts in a river, and why no-one should be complacent about the state of the Wye or its sister Welsh rivers.

The easiest way to explain P’s impact on a river is to think of a cliff gently sloping down until it reaches an edge, which then drops vertically into the sea – let’s give the cliff-edge a value of 30 and the top of the gentle slope as 100.  P at 40 has broadly the same impact on water quality as it does at 100 – too much nutrient leading to excess algae growth, discoloured water and the ‘dirty’ riverbed to which George Monbiot  alludes, but once it drops back to 30, the improvement is dramatic, and the symptoms fall away, you might say, over the cliff edge and into the sea.

This rather simplistic explanation has an important message, cutting P back from 100 to, say, 50, is a huge improvement, to which government agencies and the likes of the NFU will crow about the great job being done.  However, in terms of water quality improvement that actually supports more resilient and healthy life in the river, it is virtually useless.  More work needs to be done to reach 30 at the cliff edge, and then the river really starts a rapid improvement.

So why is excess P a problem to water life, apart from making the river environment murky and the bed gravels covered in algae?  S&TC’s Riverfly Census showed that P, along with sediment and toxic chemicals, are the biggest river polluters across the UK, and that agriculture is their main source. Our further research proved that high P levels, particularly in conjunction with sediment, kills water insects, the vital basis of a river’s food chain.  So, P, especially in conjunction with sediment, is actually toxic to water life unless kept down to natural values, 30 in our scenario.

S&TC is now using this evidence to press Welsh government and Natural Resources Wales, and Defra/Environment Agency (EA) in England, to take river pollution seriously and tighten agricultural regulation to ensure that the wildlife of rivers such as the Wye have a much more natural environment in which to thrive.  We can never return our watercourses to their truly natural state, there will always be human impact in such a closely managed countryside as we have in the UK, but there are issues we can do something about if we have the political commitment to address them, and cutting back agricultural impact on our rivers is definitely one of those.

Strong regulation is a must, but we do not just advocate the stick approach.  If you read the executive summary of the Axe Report, you will see that financial incentives for farmers to improve their infrastructure can produce dramatic results, albeit that they were threatened with heavy regulation if they didn’t comply.  Persuading farmers to adopt better soil management techniques is also critical, so that P is kept where it belongs, on fields, rather than being allowed to leach into rivers.

However, the most important aspect of the Axe example is that sufficient resources were made available to the EA to properly address the poor ecological state of the river, and they did that by visiting farms and advising farmers, many of whom had no idea they were polluting the river.  The result was nearly £4m of inward investment into updated infrastructure, and that is the sort of funding we need replicated across the whole of Wales and England if we are to protect our rivers into the future.

So, S&TC’s agricultural policy is simple; incentivise farmers to invest in their infrastructure and spread the word about modern soil management, but always be prepared to use the current legislation to regulate persistent offenders so that it becomes uneconomic for farmers to pollute watercourses such as the Wye.  If we can achieve that, then our wild fish and all other water wildlife will have the best possible chance to thrive, even in our micro-managed environment.

New CEO at Salmon & Trout Conservation

Nick Measham, CEO, Salmon & Trout Conservation,

I am proud to take on the responsibility for leading Salmon & Trout Conservation. Though I am a relatively recent recruit – I joined S&TC part time five years ago to help manage a project on the Upper Itchen and developed the Riverfly Census – I have had a life-long love of rivers and am fascinated about every aspect of them.

I come from West Bromwich, born at a time when my local river, the Tame, was one of the most polluted in Europe.  My earliest memories are of playing in small streams, catching bullheads, loach, sticklebacks and crayfish. I came to angling through this love of water – no one else in the family fished – and have always believed that fishing is a dividend, albeit a big one, of our stewardship of wild fish and their habitats. You can’t fish too happily without catching fish (though I often seem to…).

My central objective for S&TC may seem prosaic but it is to continue to grow the work we do as the only independent voice campaigning for wild fish and their habitats.  We will continue to take no Government money which too often leads to solutions which do not appear to put the environment first and which would conflict with our need to hold Government and its agencies to account.

We have been and will remain a small team with a reputation for getting things done.

We achieve what we do at a national scale by: being ruthlessly focused on a small range of critical issues and; working in close partnership/collaboration with many others.

This focus and partnership working will continue to form the framework for all we do in the short run and over the longer term too.

My immediate priority in this difficult year is to find the resources to increase the impact of our projects across our three current work streams (and protect our wonderful dedicated talented team). The Covid-19 impact is placing huge stress on funding, but the environmental demand has never been greater.

Our current projects are:

  • SmartRivers which builds on the Riverfly census to train volunteers to use invert samples to nail the water quality threats (pesticides, phosphate, sediment and sewage) threatening wild fish populationsWe are growing a SmartRivers “franchise” network across England, Wales and Scotland which will provide our water quality database with evidence of the pollutants stressing our rivers, their dependent wild fish and water life.
  • Salmon Farm Reform to prevent open-net salmon farming harming salmon and sea trout. In-shore open-net salmon farming kills wild salmon, sea trout, other fish and crustaceans. Lethality results from sea lice infestation, escaped farmed fish breeding with wild ones, and coastal waters being seriously polluted by fish waste; and also, ironically, by the quantity of chemicals needed to try to keep cage-farmed fish parasite and disease free. We champion effective regulation to control sea-lice parasites and eliminate escapes; we also seek relocation of open cage farms away from sensitive salmon and sea trout migration routes.
  • Water Action using evidence from the Riverfly Census and other science to drive policy reform on water quality (we are leading the charge on forcing action on pesticides in water and general agricultural abuse of water) and on abstraction for example.

Longer-term, the main challenges are to put in place effective regulation of agriculture and aquaculture to protect our wild fish and their habitats.

Our river fly evidence from the Riverfly Census and SmartRivers shows agricultural pollution rather than the industrial pollution of my childhood, to be the main threat to wild fish. We must ensure that farming practices stop damaging our rivers. We already have the regulation in place to do this, regulation which has been accepted by the NFU and other farmers’ bodies. This requires the Environment Agency and its sisters in Wales and Scotland to be given the resources and the will to stop bad farming practice through education and enforcement. It seems so straight forward but, somehow or other the UK’s Governments fail to deliver.

The second main challenge is aquaculture: simply put open-cage salmon farming in inshore marine locations is incompatible with wild fish. We are fighting hard to get the Scottish Government to regulate salmon farming to protect wild fish from the lethal plumes of sea lice from farmed fish and from genetically devastating escapes.

Underlying these threats to our rivers and coastal waters, is the whole more food/cheaper ethos which has dominated food production for decades. Countering this will require more than anglers, and this raises campaigning issues which we are only now beginning to understand and resource. We are an organisation of some 6000 members. We must retain and expand this base - numbers count politically - and add sources of support both people and funds.

I cannot promise you immediate success, but I can offer you the commitment to try to counter the damage being done to our wild fish and their waters. I hope I can count on your support in the years ahead.

 

S&TC Cymru Update June 2020

Richard Garner Williams, S&TC National Office for Wales writes:

In a spirited demonstration of enthusiastic collaboration S&TC Cymru, the Wild Trout Trust, the Grayling Society and the Game and Wildlife Trust recently joined forces in writing to Lesley Griffiths, Welsh Government Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs offering broad support for Natural Resources Wales’ Salmon and Sea Trout Plan of Action. The Plan was launched at the Minister’s request in response to the outcome of the Local Inquiry on Natural Resources Wales’ proposed All Wales Salmon and Sea Trout Byelaws earlier this year. We understand the Plan of Action will be underlain by a detailed Forward Delivery Plan which all four organisations look forward to examining and discussing upon publication. The letter also urged the Minister to ensure that the implementation of the Plan be adequately funded to ensure that Wales meets its national and international obligations towards these two keystone species.

Agricultural pollution continues to wreak havoc on the fragile populations of the wild fish of Wales with a recent slurry containment failure killing fish along at least 4km of the Afon Peris, near Llanon on the Cardigan Bay coast. It must be presumed the invertebrate population within the affected reaches fared little better than the fish, further compounding the effects of the spill on the river’s biodiversity. Although diminutive in size, S&TC Cymru is becoming increasingly convinced that rivers such as the Peris play an important role in sewin stock recruitment, with emerging smolts supplementing returning numbers of mature fish in larger, neighbouring rivers. With the Teifi to the south and the Rheidol, Dyfi and Mawddach to the north, we can only begin to wonder what the long term, more distant impacts of the spill might be. Regrettably, the incident was only brought to the attention of the authorities when members of the public noticed dead fish floating in the polluted water. It would appear that the farmer was unaware of the incident until alerted to it by NRW. Equipment or storage failures such as this are a far too frequent an event and suggest widespread negligence and lack of investment in the infrastructure required for today’s more intensive methods of dairy production. S&TC Cymru have repeatedly called on Welsh Government to address these issues and while the recently announced Draft Water Resources Regulations give some hope for improvement in the control of agricultural pollution, we have yet to see evidence of the commitment to the extra resources required for their enforcement.

Originally planned for introduction in January of this year, the new agricultural regulations designed to tackle the scourge of agricultural pollution remain in limbo as Welsh Government addresses the issues posed by Covid-19. S&TC Cymru wrote to congratulate the Minister on her original forthright announcement of the need to take action but have since become increasingly concerned at hints of mission creep. During the latter months of last year, at the behest of the Minister, Natural Resources Wales and NFU Cymru collaborated on a project to explore potential voluntary options, suggesting a more flexible approach based on “earned autonomy” which would release individuals from strict regulatory control. Unlike Scotland and England, where the impact of agriculture on water is regulated by statutory basic rules, Wales has no such general binding measures, relying instead on voluntary compliance with guidelines laid put in the Code of Good Agricultural Practice (CoGAP). Patently, this has failed, as the regular reports of both acute and chronic incidents of pollution make clear. We therefore conclude there can be no further place for the provision of voluntary measures with regard to the impact of agriculture on the freshwater environment if Welsh Government is serious in its intent to conclusively address the matter. With that in mind and again in the spirit of collaboration and cooperation, the Grayling Society and the Wild Trout Trust recently joined with S&TC Cymru as co-signatories to a letter to the Minister calling for the introduction of a suite of basic rules for water for all land users across the whole of Wales, in advance of the currently proposed regulations, whatever their final form. I look forward to reporting, hopefully, a positive outcome to this and thank the WTT and the GS for their ready participation in our collaborative approach.

Finally, I’m sure you were all as disappointed as was I that we had to postpone our spring seminar. This has become an extremely popular event and this year’s bookings were already close to capacity when we suddenly found ourselves overtaken by events. With so much uncertainty continuing to surround the resumption of normal social interactions we have decided to formally cancel our 2020 seminar and start instead to prepare for the 2021 event. Until then, thank you for your valued support and please feel free to get in touch at any time should you wish to discuss matters in greater detail.

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 launched in Wales

S&TC Cymru launches its first SmartRivers hub in partnership with the South East Wales Rivers Trust

S&TC Cymru is delighted to announce that South East Wales Rivers Trust (SEWRT) is to host the first SmartRivers hub in Wales. The hub is certain to play a valuable role in assisting SEWRT restore the natural beauty and biodiversity of the postindustrial Cynon.

SmartRivers, born out of the Riverfly Census, uses aquatic invertebrates as a diagnostic test to tell us about the health of rivers and possible pollutants affecting wild fish populations.

Quick and easy to deploy, but also producing robust and powerful information, polluters of rivers and streams have already been forced to take action. "SmartRivers Delivering Results"

Richard Garner Williams, S&TC National Office for Wales

"I'm delighted SEWRT has chosen to engage with S&TC's SmartRivers programme and look forward to seeing the positive contribution the hub will make towards the Trust's ambitions. It is heartwarming to see the rivers of the south Wales valleys returning to life and I wish the all those associated with the Trust great success in their endeavours." 

river cynon smartrivers

SmartRivers provides valuable information to assist with catchment management decisions, as well as establishing an insurance policy for rivers in the form of a benchmark of their health.

The South East Wales Rivers Trust (SEWRT) was formed in 2007 to recover river habitats in the former industrial valleys of South Wales. The valley environment suffered a great deal in the industrial era, but is slowly recovering, although weirs, contemporary industrial pollution and waste water issues continue to present problems for fish habitats and migration. Thanks to European funding, SEWRT has spent in excess of£190,0000 over recent years on twenty fish easements and three habitat improvement schemes opening up an additional one hundred and thirteen kilometres of river to migrating fish. Regrettably, due to pressure of work, the Cynon did not feature heavily in the programme, benefitting from only five minor easements.  Historically, the Cynon valley was a major area of coal production and heavy industry, the consequences of which had a devastating impact on the ecology of the river. However, the very upper reaches were not so badly affected and over the years these have proved to be the areas from which life has returned to repopulate this bruised and battered river. Local interest in the recovery and importance of the Cynon has generated an enthusiastic band of volunteers, ready and willing to carry out much of the work. The driving force within SEWRT is working with the local community to value the river, carry out community river surveys and run river restoration and fly monitoring courses.

Tony Rees, Chairperson of the SEWRT said:

“As Chairman of the SEWRT I have been heavily involved in several fly monitoring programmes.  Reading about the SmartRivers project made me realise how well this would fit into a new project that SEWRT is running on a truly urban river, the Cynon. I already have funding for two fly monitoring courses locally as well as to run a river restoration course. Using SmartRivers will raise the standard of the work we will be doing to a higher level and is a perfect fit for the “River for All” project on the Cynon. It will ultimately help us to understand in greater depth the problems in our valley rivers. It will also be an excellent way to show those who join in with us the unseen life in the river that is so important to all our wellbeing, but that the public has little knowledge of.  We are grateful to Welsh Water, Pen Y Cymoedd wind farm community fund, Natural Resources Wales and Post Code Lottery for supporting the project.”

SmartRivers includes a comprehensive online and field-based training scheme, 1-2-1 support and good use of information technology, including a dedicated S&TC Invert ID App. This ensures that local community groups themselves are able to monitor the water quality in their rivers to a near-professional standard.

Lauren Mattingley, SmartRivers Project Manager S&TC

We are delighted to be continuing our water quality work in Wales through SmartRivers. The Cynon is unlike any river we have enrolled in the programme to date, so the information we will obtain through the monitoring will be fascinating. It is astounding that tiny invertebrates can give us such vast insight into the subtle, and often invisible, pressures our young fish are being exposed to. We are very excited to educate the Cynon volunteers on these pressures. SmartRivers will give them the scientific power to understand what improvements are needed and measure the biological impact of any actions they may take.”

 Nick Measham, S&TC CEO said:

“The rivers of Wales rivers suffered so much in the industrial era and sadly continue to face a lot of pressure. We are always pleased to hear about the positive work being done and some good news stories about river restoration. SEWRT have achieved so much good for the rivers under their care. We hope our SmartRivers programme will help SEWRT turn high quality citizen science into meaningful real-world action that here and now improves outcomes for wild fish and the wider habitat.”

Dennis Baynham, Secretary of the SEWRT

“The Cynon starts above Hirwaun and runs down the valley through the middle of Aberdare and Mountain Ash joining the Taff in Abercynon. It is a truly urban river in need of some TLC. It suffered years of pollution from colliery waste and the Phurnacite plant in Abercwmboi, but in the years since they stopped production water quality has improved tremendously. It now suffers with water quality problems from sewerage over flows and poor connections. I welcome this initiative as a step in the direction of identifying all the problems the Cynon. The local angling fraternity are behind this.”

 Afon Cynon, A River for all: Gareth Edge Project officer

“My project aims to improve the biodiversity of the Cynon through meaningful education, community engagement and small-scale environmental improvements. Volunteers are encouraged to undertake a Level 1 accredited qualification in River Restoration. Partner Schools look after critically endangered European eels for release on the catchment, as part of a Europe wide restocking project. River clean-ups are undertaken in partnership with Keep Wales Tidy. Invasive species will also be managed with the aid of local authority. Partnering S&TC and the SmartRivers programme will enable me to take my work to a wider audience of volunteers.”

 Natural Resources Wales issued the following statement,

“NRW is keen to support initiatives like SmartRivers, that involve communities in citizen science, and engender a wider and increased understanding of river ecosystems. SmartRivers monitoring aims to pick up issues, and working together, we can better protect and improve our river environments.”

 For more information about SmartRivers and how it could support your river management activities, please email: smartrivers@salmon-trout.org

 For more information on the work of S&TC Cymru, please email our National Officer for Wales, Richard Garner Williams: wales@salmon-trout.org

Please note: We can only run courses with groups of around 10 volunteers and not for individuals. However, if you are struggling to establish a 'hub' group your local Rivers Trust or Wildlife Trust may be able to help.

ENDS

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.

NASCO 2020

Paul Knight reports on the 37th Annual Meeting of NASCO

The North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organisation (NASCO) met for its Annual Meeting in the first week of June, although this year, uniquely, all the meetings were held virtually by video link, with those not directly involved being able to listen in by phone.  Despite concerns that such a large international conference would be difficult to organise and run – it involved a Council and three separate Commissions – it actually went very smoothly, albeit with some of the more important issues, particularly from an NGO viewpoint, being postponed until Council is able to meet face-to-face, hopefully this autumn.

The main objective for the NGOs was to influence support for a full day Theme-based Special Session (TBSS) on salmon farming at next year’s Annual meeting.  This follows increasing concern right across the north Atlantic – and also the Pacific – that open-net salmon farming is the most damaging issue for wild salmon and sea trout that NASCO parties and jurisdictions actually have the power to do something about.  The NGOs were therefore delighted to receive unanimous support from all the Heads of Delegation for the TBSS in June next year, even agreeing to extending the meeting by a day if that is needed to accommodate the event.

The main concern driving the NGOs is that, despite NASCO resolutions going back at least 17 years, and a Council direction that open-net salmon farming should receive particular attention from relevant countries, the Implementation Plan process – the 5-year plans for salmon conservation put forward by each party and jurisdiction – clearly show a failure to protect wild fish from the adverse impacts of sea lice infestations killing migrating smolts, and escaped farmed fish interbreeding with natural salmon populations.  Two countries with significant salmon farming industries openly admit that they have no action to regulate sea lice emanating from open pen farms, while another has a national policy allowing 30% of wild salmon smolts to be killed before any serious regulation is considered.

So, the TBSS is a small but significant step along a very long road needed to turn around the juggernaut of political commitment so that appropriately effective regulations are introduced (in those jurisdictions where they are still absent) and are enforced rigorously to protect wild fish.  It is a sad admission that no country with both a salmon farming industry and wild salmon populations presently protect their natural fish stocks adequately enough.

Another pleasing aspect of this meeting was that, following several incidents last year when the NGOs felt they were being kept at arms’ length from important Council decisions, there were signs that our complaints had been taken onboard.  However, there are still serious issues to address for the NGOs at the autumn intersessional Council meeting, including:

  • The process for completing and reviewing the Implementation Plans – we want to see far more genuine commitment in these plans to protecting wild salmon, particularly from the harmful effects of salmon farming
  • An opportunity for NGOs to input fully to the upcoming external performance review, which will be an independent audit of NASCO’s performance since the previous review in 2012 in achieving its primary objective of protecting wild salmon.
  • Confirmation that NASCO is committed to a fully transparent process in all its work, including NGO access to and involvement in all Council and Commission decisions
  • Through our representation on the Implementation Plan and Annual Progress Report Review Group, NGO involvement in developing TBSSs for upcoming annual meetings
  • Following on the success of this virtual meeting, how much of NASCO’s work could be delivered in this way in future, so cutting down time and money resources in attending meetings, particularly those outside of the main annual event, which we agree should remain face-to-face under normal circumstances

In summary, therefore, a useful meeting where the NGOs achieved our main goal of a TBSS on salmon farming next year.  Much still to do and agree, and we now look forward to the face-to-face intersessional Council meeting in the autumn – provided we are able to travel again by then, of course.

The SAMARCH Project International Salmonid Coastal and Marine Telemetry Workshop

1200px-Flag_of_Europe
SAMARCHLogo

The "Blue Book"

Based on a workshop organised by Salmon & Trout Conservation and Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust on behalf of the SAMARCH Project and the Atlantic Salmon Trust in Southampton, UK, on the 5th and 6th November 2019.

SAMARCH is a five-year project with a grant of €5.8m from the EU’s France Channel England Interreg Channel programme.

Download HERE

Milk. A serious environmental threat?

So, here’s the shocking news about the potential of milk to pollute rivers.

Paul Knight, S&TC CEO writes,

One of the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic has been that the demand for milk has slumped and so dairy farmers have had to pour away their excess, cows still have to be milked, after all, so production cannot just stop.  In Wales, home of the new crop of mega dairy units, the rules state that unwanted milk should be poured into slurry storage if possible, and only sprayed onto fields if absolutely necessary.

Slurry from diary units is a consistent polluter of our rivers. It is sprayed onto fields and the first decent rain shower takes it straight into the nearest watercourse as run-off.  We have heard reports some farmers even dispose of slurry directly into rivers, often at night in an attempt to hide their nefarious activity. The results can be devastating for local fish stocks, because of oxygen depletion due to the micro-organisms feeding on the organic material in slurry.

So, here’s the shocking news about the potential of milk to pollute rivers.  Take treated human sewage as our baseline. A biological oxygen demand (BOD) of up to 60 mg of oxygen per litre of pollutant.  From this, these impacts have the following BOD:

No-one is yet suggesting that milk is finding its way into rivers, but the purpose of the above table is to show just how potentially polluting these agricultural waste products can be if they enter water courses. It is not so much that they are directly toxic to fish and water life, it is that they extract the oxygen out of the system to the extent that, in serious cases, all affected life will die as a consequence.

This is why S&TC is demanding government agencies are properly resourced to monitor watercourses effectively and enforce existing legislation.  We have the legislation, we just need the political will and funding to deal with those farmers who continue to pollute our rivers and damage wild fish stocks.

We are also determined to influence post-Brexit agricultural policies that incentivise farmers to invest in such infrastructure as new storage facilities for slurry or silage that don’t leak. But, while we lobby for these incentives to help farmers, we need the existing laws and regulations to be enforced. We are being fair to fish, not unfair to farmers.

S&TC launches first SmartRivers hub in Scotland

S&TC launches first SmartRivers hub in Scotland in partnership with Flow Country Rivers Trust.

The River Halladale is set to become the first river in Scotland to join SmartRivers, as Salmon and Trout Conservation continue trials of the innovative scheme.

The scheme, born out of the Riverfly Census, uses aquatic invertebrates as a diagnostic test to tell us about the health of rivers and possible pollutants affecting wild fish populations.

Nick Measham, S&TC Deputy CEO said:

 “We’re delighted to be able to support Flow Country Rivers Trust with our SmartRivers programme. SmartRivers is what S&TC is all about, turning science into meaningful real-world action, that here and now improves outcomes for wild fish and the wider habitat.  We are very much looking forward to working with FCRT over the coming years.”

image1

Quick and easy to deploy, but also producing powerful information. Polluters of rivers and streams in England have already been forced to take action.

"SmartRivers Delivering Results"

SmartRivers provides both information to assist with catchment management decisions, as well as establishing an insurance policy for rivers in the form of a benchmark of their health. Real world empirical evidence about the diversity of invertebrate species which form the foundation of the food web in rivers will support the indicative monitoring of conductivity, pH levels and fry numbers.

Reuben Sweeting, Head Ghillie on the River Halladale said:

“SmartRivers is the final piece of the puzzle.  It complements the range of monitoring already being carried out, helping to develop a fuller picture of the health of our rivers and, crucially, allowing us to better understand the potential they hold.

 Being part of the team to bring SmartRivers north to Scotland for the first time is very exciting.  With the opportunity to attain professional level benchmarking, combined with sampling and identification training, the benefits will be felt by all involved.”

A comprehensive online and field based training scheme, 1-2-1 support and good use of information technology, including a dedicated S&TC Invert ID App, ensures that local community groups themselves are able to monitor the water quality in their rivers to a near-professional standard.

Lauren Mattingley, SmartRivers Project Manager S&TC said:

 “We are overjoyed to be extending our water quality work into Scottish rivers. Ensuring young salmon and trout are as fit and healthy as possible before they migrate to sea is crucial for them to successfully complete their life cycles.

 It is astounding that tiny invertebrates can give us such vast insight into the quality of the water our young fish are being exposed to. Working with the FCRT volunteers on the Halladale is going to be fascinating.”

Benchmark monitoring on the River Halladale will be carried out in spring and autumn 2020. The first independent monitoring by the volunteers, under the auspices of the Flow Country Rivers Trust, will occur in spring 2021.

Alan Youngson, Scientific advisor, FCRT

"Over the last few years the FCRT and the local Fishery Boards have worked hard to build a better picture of the northern rivers and the salmon populations that they support. However, we still know very little about the invertebrate populations that the fish depend on for food. We look forward to learning much more from the professionals driving the Smart Rivers project."

John Mackay, Chairperson, Flow Country Rivers Trust said:

 “Currently the North of Scotland rivers are in very good health, but we are mindful of the deteriorating situation across the UK. We have a database of the juvenile numbers, biomass density and the water conductivity for all the 10 rivers in the FCRT area. The Smart Rivers project to measure the insect food supply will add to this database and provide a benchmark, which will hopefully give us advance warning of a change in our environment.”

 For more information about SmartRivers and how it could support your river management activities, please email: smartrivers@salmon-trout.org

 Please note: We can only run courses with groups of around 10 volunteers and not for individuals. However, if you are struggling to establish a 'hub' group your local Rivers Trust or Wildlife Trust may be able to help.

ENDS

Issued by Corin Smith comms@salmon-trout.org (T: 07463 576892)

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.

Change of Chief Executive at Salmon & Trout Conservation

S&TC’s CEO, Paul Knight, is to retire at the end of June and Nick Measham, currently Deputy Chief Executive, will take over the reins of the UK’s premier wild fish charity.

Paul Knight stands down on June 30th after 26 years with the organisation, 18 of which have been as CEO, although he will continue for a further year with some part-time consultancy work, mainly connected to his Co-chairmanship of the NGOs at the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organistion (NASCO).

Paul Knight and Nick Measham, third and fourth from right respectively.

During Paul Knight’s tenure, the organisation evolved from being the governing body for game angling into a fisheries charity (2008), changed its name from Salmon & Trout Association (S&TA) to Salmon & Trout Conservation (S&TC) in 2016, and had two office moves from Fishmongers’ Hall, culminating in its first ever dedicated HQ, which is now located in Wiltshire.

Above all, the charity has gradually developed the focus of its work from being an angling interest group to a fisheries conservation organisation with policies built on sound scientific evidence.  S&TC now sees angling as being a dividend of its work to create healthy wild fish stocks, water quality and freshwater and marine habitats, and its membership base is still mainly anglers, albeit those with a vision of their place within the wider water environment and their critical role in its future protection

Paul Knight had this to say about his time at S&TC, 

“I have been extremely proud to work for this organisation for a quarter of a century, during which we made some substantial changes to the way in which we operate.  I am very grateful to the six Chairs, all the Trustees and, before them, Council and Committee members, and of course the many volunteers at branch and national levels, all of whom have helped make my job so enjoyable.  I am handing over to a very able successor in Nick Measham, with whom I have worked for five years and so continuity is assured.  Despite our hard-won achievements over the years, there is still much to do to protect wild salmon and trout and the water environments on which they depend, and I wish S&TC, Nick and our tremendous staff the very best for the future.”  

Nick Measham has a background in investment management and a near life-long fascination with rivers and fish. He joined S&TA, as it then was, in 2015.  He project-managed S&TC’s highly successful Riverfly Census initiative and oversaw the expansion of freshwater campaigns to improve water quality and riverine habitat, and still found time to be an extremely effective fundraiser.

Nick Measham said,

“I am excited to take on the challenge to build on our achievements under Paul Knight to protect wild salmon and trout from the harm wreaked by over-exploitation, fish farming, poor water quality, land management issues and over abstraction. I inherit a talented and committed team and together we will strive to carry forwards our evidence-based advocacy for wild fish and their habitats.”   

High-frequency phosphorus monitoring for water quality management

Using high-frequency phosphorus monitoring for water quality management: a case study of the upper River Itchen, UK

Gary R. Fones & Adil Bakir & Janina Gray & Lauren Mattingley & Nick Measham & Paul Knight & Michael J. Bowes & Richard Greenwood & Graham A. Mills

Abstract Increased concentrations of phosphorus (P) in riverine systems lead to eutrophication and can contribute to other environmental effects. Chalk rivers are known to be particularly sensitive to elevated P levels. We used high-frequency (daily) automatic water sampling at five distinct locations in the upper River Itchen (Hampshire, UK) between May 2016 and June 2017 to identify the main P species……..

Read the full paper HERE

Dr Janina Gray, Head of Science & Environmental Policy at S&TC said: 

"This peer-reviewed article has come from our phosphate (p) monitoring work on the Itchen. It highlights the spiky nature of P, which is typically missed in the EA’s current monthly monitoring regime, and the need to better understand the impact these spikes could be having on river ecology. As a next step, S&TC, alongside EA and HIWWT, have joint funded a PhD at Nottingham University, which started in Sept 2019, to investigate the ecological impact of the P spikes."

Nick Measham, S&TC Deputy CEO said:

"We have already taken this science and turned it into action. The work underpinned changes to watercress companies’ discharge permits on the Itchen and contributed to a massive reduction of this pollutant in the river. 

The spiky nature of the discharge implies that the EA’s monthly sampling, combined with permit limits set in terms of annual averages, does not provide the protection our rivers need. Permit reform and the use of monitoring technology is urgently required. The current regime makes no sense.

Much more remains to be done but this is a start."