S&TC joins 100 NGOs in Europe-wide #ProtectWater campaign

S&TC is one of 100 NGOs[1 ] joining forces across Europe to tackle proposed weakening of EU freshwater protection laws

As part of #ProtectWater, we are uniting to launch a campaign calling on the European Commission to defend the law that protects all sources of water, such as rivers, lakes, wetlands and groundwater, during its current review.

Such laws are integral to the future health and abundance of wild fish, especially salmon and trout who urgently need their waters better protected from over-abstraction, barriers to migration and all forms of pollution. To weaken these laws further would certainly speed up salmon and trout's disappearance from our waterways, primarily through a loss of important habitat and a degradation of their water quality.

It is essential to support this law in the UK, as any weakening of this EU legislation will be transposed into UK law post-Brexit and will mean weaker protections for our waters.

Working together to protect water

The #ProtectWater campaign encourages people across the UK and Europe to participate in the European Commission’s public consultation on the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD), which is running until 4 March 2019.

This is the only opportunity for the general public to express their support to keep water protections strong and effective. To get involved people can simply and quickly sign-up here.

 

Andreas Baumüller, Head of Natural Resources at WWF’s European Policy Office, said:

‘Member States’ half-hearted implementation of the EU water law is a crime in itself, but their desperate attempts to weaken it - and before the Commission’s fitness check has even concluded - is a step too far.

We urge citizens across Europe and beyond to join forces through the #ProtectWater campaign and make their voices heard.

We all need clean water, and without the Water Framework Directive, this will be under serious threat. Act now to defend the EU water law!’

 

Dr Janina Gray, S&TC’s Head of Science & Environmental Policy, said,

“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.

We are looking for Government commitment for greater protection for rivers, streams and wild fish following Brexit, and so ensuring that WFD’ standards remain as they are is of paramount importance to drive this.”

 

Hannah Freeman, Senior Government Affairs Officer at Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) and Chair of the Blueprint for Water group in the UK, said: 

The Water Framework Directive has had a massive impact in the UK, including getting water companies to invest billions in cleaning up our rivers and restoring our aquatic habitats.

Protecting this law is essential to defend our basic human right to clean water and for all nature to thrive.’

 

Why are such laws important?

Freshwater ecosystems are the most threatened on the planet [2].

Sixty percent of EU waters are not healthy today because Member States have allowed them to be exploited and damaged for example by unsustainable agriculture, and destructive infrastructure, such as dams.

Shockingly, only 14% of rivers in England are classed as healthy. [3].

Through the WFD, Member States agreed to achieve “good status” for their waters by 2027 at the very latest. 2027 is also the year which the #ProtectWater campaign playfully poses as the fictional ‘expiration date’ for good beer.

Where political will exists, the WFD provides an effective framework for addressing the main pressures facing our waters [4], but Member States need to significantly step up their efforts and funding if the 2027 deadlines are to be achieved.

Results to improve the health of their waters have been few and far between, and Member States are now discussing how the law can be weakened to introduce greater flexibility for themselves.

More information about the #ProtectWater campaign is available at: www.livingrivers.eu or on the S&TC website:

Notes to editors: 

1. The #ProtectWater campaign is led by WWF EU, the European Environmental Bureau, European Anglers Alliance, European Rivers Network and Wetlands International, who together form the Living Rivers Europe coalition and have more than 40 million supporters between them. More than 100 organisations are backing the campaign.

In the UK a coalition of 11 organisations coordinated by Wildlife and Countryside Link are supporting the campaign including: Angling Trust and Fish Legal, British Canoeing, Freshwater Habitats Trust, Institute of Fisheries Management, Marine Conservation Society, The Rivers Trust, RSPB, Salmon and Trout Conservation, Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT), WWF-UK and ZSL Zoological Society of London.

2. Living Planet Report, WWF, 2016
3. European waters: Assessment of status and pressures 2018, EEA, 2018
4. Bringing life back to Europe’s waters: The EU water law in action, 2018

 

About the Water Framework Directive (WFD) and Living Rivers Europe

  • The WFD is one of the EU’s most progressive pieces of environmental legislation. It requires the protection, enhancement and restoration of our rivers, wetlands, lakes and coastal waters, but Member States are currently failing make it work on the ground.
  • Under the WFD, EU governments have committed to ensure no deterioration and achieve good status for the vast majority of all water bodies by 2015, and at the very latest by 2027.
  • Where implemented, the WFD has proved to be effective in achieving its goals of good water status and non-deterioration, successfully balancing environmental, social and economic requirements.
  • The WFD is currently undergoing its standard review in the form of a ‘fitness check’. Every piece of EU legislation goes through this process. The fitness check will look at the relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, coherence and EU added value of the WFD (and its 'daughter’ directives) and the Floods Directive. It includes the ongoing stakeholder consultation and public consultation.
  • As the Living Rivers Europe coalition, we are working on safeguarding the EU WFD and strengthening its implementation and enforcement. Click here to read the full Living Rivers Europe vision statement.

Hardy partners with S&TC to help conserve wild fish

Hardy partners with S&TC

Salmon & Trout Conservation are proud to announce an exciting new partnership with leading tackle manufacturer, Hardy.

The collaboration will see the two organisations work together on various projects to conserve wild fish and their waters, including the production and auction of two truly bespoke Hardy outfits for S&TC’s glittering Annual Auction this November.

The flagship lot at this year’s auction is an extremely generous contribution from Hardy, with whom S&TC are proud to announce an exciting long-term partnership. Defined by their 1800's heritage and English-made, top quality tackle, such a collaboration combines not just Hardy’s and S&TC’s expertise and heritage, but their mutual passion for protecting wild fish and their habitats.

Conserving wild fish together

As the UK's leading wild fish charity, S&TC has been protecting and preserving our wild fish and freshwaters for over 115 years. Originally tackling the environmental pressures of the Industrial Revolution, S&TC today continue to achieve important successes for wild salmon and trout driven by three highly actionable conservation focuses: water quality, water quantity and protection from salmon farming.

This vision is defined and delivered through S&TC’s independent, science-led and action-driven campaigns. The charity receives no government money, their important work funded entirely by private donations, memberships and fundraising initiatives, such as their Annual Dinner and Auction at Fishmonger’s Hall in London, now in its 10th year.

As prominent wild fish conservationists, Hardy are proudly committed to protecting salmon, trout and the UK's waterways, which their partnership with S&TC is integral to achieving.

 

Exclusive auction lots

In an act of support for the cause, Hardy have generously donated two exceptional lots to the S&TC Annual Auction this year, which are expected to achieve handsome sums for S&TC’s important work:


Unique S&TC Hardy Complete Angler Outfit

  • One of a kind, 001 of 001
  • 1 x Hardy Salmon Smuggler 14'6"#10 rod with limited edition Hardy 'Perfect' reel
  • 1 x Hardy Trout Smuggler 9'0"#5 rod with limited edition Hardy 'Perfect' reel
  • Both to include matching fitted fly lines
  • 1 x Richard Wheatley handmade fly box with assortment of trout flies
  • 1 x Richard Wheatley handmade fly box with assortment of salmon flies
  • Presented in a custom-built leather case by Casecraft UK (case valued at £3k)

Bespoke S&TC Hardy Trout Smuggler Set

  • 1 of 115 S&TC units, to celebrate our 115th year
  • 1 x Hardy Trout Smuggler 9'0"#5 rod with limited edition Hardy 'Perfect' reel
  • 1 x matching fitted fly line
  • 1 x Handmade Richard Wheatley fly box with an assortment of trout flies
  • Presented in an aluminium flight case with laser cut foam liner

Bespoke collector's items

The Hardy Complete Angler Outfit is an entirely unique, never to be repeated, bespoke item, which is currently being handcrafted for S&TC at Hardy’s headquarters at Alnwick, England.

The Hardy Trout Smuggler is equally special; 1 of 115 to celebrate the 115 years that S&TC has been actively conserving wild fish in the UK.

Official photographs of the exclusive lots, which are expected to appeal to collectors and keen anglers alike, are expected soon. In the meantime, you can find out more  on our Hardy page.

 

Find out more and make a sealed bid

The lots are part of S&TC’s exclusive live auction on the 14th November 2018, which is now sold out. However, S&TC are accepting private sealed bids.

Please follow the link below, or contact S&TC’s fundraising manager, Guy Edwards, to find out more and/or submit bids: Guy@salmon-trout.org | 01425 652 461.

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.

-

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

Plastic Rivers

Plastic Rivers: An overlooked but essential element of the global plastic problem

We are all familiar with the shocking plastic-related headlines and imagery that has filled our media channels over the past year: sea turtles with straws up their noses, the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’ and fears about plastics in our seafood.

But our plastic problem begins upstream.

Plastic pollution is frequently described as an ‘ocean epidemic’. Although this is the truth, microplastics are much more than an ocean specific issue. Microplastics are everywhere; soil, air and our rivers - but for the most part these are overlooked.

 

80% of marine plastic comes from freshwater

Around 80% of marine microplastics come from freshwater run-off, meaning there is a whole period where microplastics persist in rivers before they are flushed into the ocean.

It is essential we stop seeing rivers simply as plastic ‘couriers’ and answer the big question: what impact are these plastic particles having on life in freshwater?

 

What impact is plastic having on freshwater life?

Evidence from the marine environment suggests microplastics may be considered contaminants of emerging concern in freshwater.

It is already known that there is an energetic cost associated with ingestion of microplastics by organisms. That is, plastic consumption effects the very survival of our freshwater wildlife because it changes their inate behaviour.

For example, when plastic particles are consumed, they mimic fullness, so animals stop eating and suffer from poor nutrition.

There is also potential for ecotoxicological harm, as plastics act like sponges, absorbing chemicals in the water. Once eaten, these chemicals can be released from the plastic into whatever has eaten it. And so forth, up the food chain.

 

How does river plastic affect wild fish?

For salmon and sea trout, we know chemicals in water have a directly negative effect on completion of their life cycles, particularly the phase where they transform to become ready for life at sea.

So it is logical to ask an important question: are these damaging chemicals becoming more available to these fish - and in higher doses - through the ingestion of plastic particles?

New research is being commissioned and investigations are being made into understanding and controlling the freshwater element of plastic pollution.

Wastewater treatment plants (a large input of microplastics that come from domestic and industrial sources) are currently not designed to remove microplastics effectively, but new filtration options are being discussed.

 

How can we plastic-proof our rivers?

There is huge scope for positive change, with people and businesses being more aware of their plastic footprints than ever before.

From paper straws to reusable cups, every change we make is a win for the water environment. We urge people to remember that this impact extends way beyond marine; in fact, most plastic pollution begins life in our rivers, where it will also be having an impact - one that often seems overlooked.

At S&TC HQ we have gone single-use-plastic free, and would urge others to do the same.

Moving forward, we would like to see action in the form of a monitoring protocol and standard for river microplastics, so watch this space!

Until we fully grasp and measure the problem, we will not be able to effectively control it.

Additionally, only by understanding the dynamics of microplastics in freshwater, will we be able to effectively measure and manage the contribution to our oceans, in turn protecting marine and freshwater life.

---> By Lauren Mattingley, S&TC's Science Office

S&TC Cymru partners with other conservation groups to help restore endangered eels

Conservation groups give hope for endangered eels by providing them a new home at Cyfarthfa Park Lake, Merthyr Tydfil, Wales

S&TC Cymru and South East Wales Rivers Trust, as joint lead partners for the European eel in the Wales Environment Link (WEL) species champion initiative, have come together with National Resources Wales to help protect critically endangered eels in Merthyr.

As part of the initiative - which also involves removing barriers to migration - an abundance of young eels (known as elvers) are being released into Cyfarthfa Park Lake. Witnessing the release of the first 15 on Thursday 26th July were Dawn Bowden (Welsh Labour Assembly Member), Gerald Lewis (of Merthyr Borough Council) and the Trustees of Cyfarthfa Park.

Richard Garner Willams of S&TC Cymru says:

"Initiatives such as this play a crucial part in conveying the concept of protecting the welfare of future generations, and leaving the natural world in a better state than we currently find it."

 

Why is the European eel important?

Historically the European eel constituted 50% of the total freshwater fish biomass in Europe, though recently their numbers have declined by 90 - 95%.

Small eels, such as those released at Cyfarthfa Park, feed mainly on insect larvae, molluscs, worms, and crustaceans, but as they grow larger they will also predate other fishes and scavenge on fish carcasses, helping to recycle nutrients.

They are also important food for otters and birds such as herons, egrets and bitterns, and the consequences of their decline will be felt at all levels of the freshwater food chain. The loss of this key species will undoubtedly have a direct impact on the ecological integrity of entire rivers and the survival of many of our precious wild fish.

Aside from their role in the ecology of freshwater, European eels are a fascinating species with an extraordinary life cycle. They start as eggs in the Sargasso Sea near Bermuda and spend 18 months floating on ocean currents towards the coasts of Europe and North Africa. They enter rivers and lakes and spend anything from 5 to 20 years feeding and growing into adult eels. They then return to sea and swim 3000 miles for over a year, back to spawn in the Sargasso Sea.

Just like our beloved salmon and trout, they undertake an immense journey and depend heavily on having a clear route to make their migration. Sadly, their routes have been blocked; the implications of which are also suffered by many other freshwater creatures.

 

Barriers to migration = critically endangered

The lake, and other waters off the upper Taff, have had no eel population for over a hundred years, since multiple weirs were constructed along the length of the river during the industrial revolution, blocking their upstream migration from the sea.

1.3 million similar barriers across rivers in Europe mean that the eel can only access 10% of the habitats it used to. Numbers of the once common eel have been reduced by 90 – 95%, meaning the species is now classified as ‘critically endangered’.

Barriers to migration have severe consequences for all migratory species, and those that rely on them as a food source.

 

New eels in a new home

As part of this new initiative eels were sourced by the South East Wales Rivers Trust. They were part of a programme of placing batches of 50 baby eels in fish tanks in 8 schools and 2 education centres – the Welsh Water Education Centre, Cilfynydd and the Millennium Centre, Taf Bargoed, where the eels for Cyfarthfa Park were raised.

At the schools and centres, the pupils fed and looked after the eels for 3 months and learnt about the eel’s fascinating life cycle. Now bigger and stronger, the eels are ready to be stocked into their new home.

eels

This is part of a huge programme of work which is underway across Europe to help restore eel populations by restoring wetlands and removing barriers to the eels’ traditional migration routes.

Cyfarthfa Park is ideal habitat for eels. They will grow there, become part of the ecosystem and will migrate in 5 – 20 years to sea to spawn and continue the species.

eels

 

Dawn Bowden, Labour AM for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney, said:

“The eel is a fascinating fish that needs our help. I am delighted to see how local conservation groups have worked together to educate our children and give eels a new home in Merthyr.”

Dawn Bowden AM, was made European Eel Champion this year, as part of the Species Champion project run by Wales Environment Link (WEL).

eels

WEL members – including Salmon & Trout Conservation Cymru – pair AMs up with endangered species in Wales so they can help recover and safeguard them. Dawn is part of a group of 37 other AMs in the project.

eels

Above, from left to right: Tony Rees (South East Wales Rivers Trust); Dawn Bowden (AM, species champion for European eel, Wales Assembly Member); Richard Garner Williams (Salmon & Trout Cymru); David Bunt (Sustainable Eel Group).

Richard of S&TC Cymru says:

"We are facing the very real prospect of our rivers and lakes becoming totally devoid of European eels and it is therefore incumbent upon us to act with urgency if we are to reverse their catastrophic decline.

One means of achieving this is to highlight their plight via the Wales Environment Link Species Champions initiative, which takes the cause of our many threatened species to the very heart of government.

I am delighted that Dawn has agreed to act as Species Champion for this fascinating yet little understood creature and am grateful for her enthusiasm and support."

 

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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.”

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.

Stay up to date with our latest news & press releases

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

Riverfly Census continues in Wales

The Riverfly Census in Wales

Through our S&TC Riverfly Census, a three-year survey using species-level invertebrate analysis, we are currently analysing results from the 12 rivers that kicked the survey off in 2015. We continue to unlock the power of water insects and diagnose the health of rivers nationally- and this is not just limited to England.

The Census method was so well received that in 2016 three Welsh rivers were added to the initial 12 English rivers: the Usk, Clwyd and Eastern Cleddau. This year we are collecting the final samples to complete the three year picture.

We will be analysing the Welsh results early 2019, then taking the results to local stakeholders and campaigning for action.

So far it is clear that current regulations are not rigorous enough to detect the extent of the problems threatening the base of the food chain.

Fact-based scientific evidence like Riverfly Census data can be a great platform to push for better, more effective guidelines to protect our wildlife and a rethink on the existing policies in place.

What is the Riverfly Census?

Water insects live for months, sometimes years, below the surface in their nymph stages. Because different insects have different tolerances to pollution, the presence or absence of certain species is a simple but effective way of finding out what pressures a river might be experiencing.

Using a consistent method of sampling, we are able to evaluate the health of rivers by evaluating the bugs that we find there, and using this data we can take action for cleaner rivers.

Although it is still too early to present the main conclusions of the Census, for the core survey rivers it is a clear fact that deterioration is largely a result of phosphate and sediment pollution, even on rivers with the highest level of conservation protection such as the River Itchen.

Read more about the Riverfly Census here.