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.


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.



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).


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.


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."


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.”

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 )


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

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.



Salmon & Trout Conservation has a new HQ and welcomes new staff

Salmon & Trout Conservation has a new HQ

S&TC are celebrating a new chapter in their esteemed history this month, ushering in a bright future with the addition of two new team members, all while settling into a new dedicated head office.

S&TC recently moved into their first dedicated HQ, located in the beautiful village of Burcombe near Salisbury. Despite a long and prosperous history of 115 years, this is the first time that S&TC has their own official home. Nestled in rural Wiltshire, with the banks of the picturesque Nadder a mere stone's throw away, the new office provides the prefect setting with which to continue S&TC's great work.

Paul Knight, Chief Executive of Salmon & Trout Conservation said,

"These are exciting times for S&TC.

Although we are 115 years old, this is our first dedicated HQ, having been hosted by the Fishmongers’ Company for more than a century and, more recently, by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust in Fordingbridge.

We are very grateful for the support we have received from our two hosts over the years, but now we look forward to working from our own offices with an expanded staff, building on the considerable success we have achieved in recent years."

Salmon & Trout Conservation welcomes new staff

Alongside a new home, S&TC also welcome two new members of staff, into two brand new roles.

Melissa Elderfield joins the charity as Communications Manager, bringing with her 10+ years of experience from her varied background in digital marketing and strategic communications, including the not-for-profit sector.

Guy Edwards joins S&TC as Fundraising Manager, bringing over 12 years of business development experience from an agency background, as well extensive sales expertise.

Their work will play a pivotal role in the continued success of the charity, ensuring that a wider audience is reached and a strategic approach is taken to securing on-going support. These exciting developments are in line with the recent re-brand, and improved digital presence, of S&TC.

Paul Knight added,

"We continue to base our policies on sound scientific evidence, either collected by our own scientists, or from professionals and academics commissioned by us, or from external peer-reviewed sources.

Now, we will be able to let people know more about our work through Mel Elderfield as Communications Manager, and better finance our scientific department through Guy Edwards’ fundraising efforts."

You can read more about the S&TC team here.

S&TC's new HQ can be found at: Salmon & Trout Conservation, The Granary, Manor Farm, Burcombe Lane, Salisbury, SP2 0EJ

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.

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.   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.

  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: or m. 078 0905 6152 or visit the website for World Fish Migration Day at

Pinpointing Pesticides – Our national survey now uses water insects to solve chemical puzzle

We are pleased to announce that pesticide fingerprints can now be detected using the Riverfly Census’ analytical tool kit… a massive breakthrough in monitoring water quality for neonicotinoids and other insect killing chemicals 

The Riverfly Census can now show the impact of pesticides on water quality in addition to the threats from nutrients, sediments, organic pollution and river flow.  This is thanks to the incorporation of SPEAR modelling into his biometric finger printing by Dr. Nick Everall and his team at Aquascience Consultancy Limited.

This development is hugely important. Chemical testing for pesticides is costly and difficult. Pesticide pollution can be fleetingly brief, wrecking damage but dispersing between the EA’s chemical sampling dates. Invertebrates live in the river. They will show the impact of pesticide pollution long after the pollutant has dispersed. Invertebrate sampling and analysis is also much cheaper than its chemical counterparts.

By inputting our species-level results into the tool, known as SPEAR, we have demonstrated a clear impact of pesticides in several Census rivers including the Avon, the Wensum and the Welland. We will be incorporating a full SPEAR analysis of all our Census’ rivers in the full report due later this year.

Widespread harmful pesticide presence in UK rivers was recently highlighted by Buglife, in a report based on Environment Agency data. However, the Buglife report needed S&TC’s Riverfly Census data to provide evidence of actual ecological damage by showing the impact of pesticides on aquatic bugs. The combination of our Census’ species-level data and SPEAR allows us for the first time to assess the impact as opposed to the presence of harmful pesticides.

Results from the Avon and the Wensum indicate that pesticides are impacting water quality on top the phosphate and sediment pressures already shown in the Census. The Wensum’s water quality has ranked poorly throughout the three years of the Census while the Avon’s quality has nose-dived from good in 2015 to poor in 2017.

Graph showing that as SPEAR score goes over the WFD threshold, Avon Gammarus abundance mostly declines
Graph showing that as SPEAR score goes over the WFD threshold, Avon Gammarus abundance mostly declines

Avon results

  • Three of our five sites showed a moderate pesticide signature in the autumn 2016 results.
  • In autumn 2017, again three sites showed a pesticide signature but this time two sites scored poorly (Stratford Bridge and Ham Hatches) and one moderate (Stonehenge).

Wensum results

  • The impact of pesticides on the Wensum appears wide spread. 57% of the 30 samples we took at 5 sites during 2015, 2016 & 2017 on the Wensum had a pesticide biological signature of moderate or worse.
  • Fakenham Common showed a pesticide signature for all samples except spring 2016.
  • Pensthorpe Nature Park showed a pesticide signature for all samples except Spring 2017. Two of the samples achieved bad, demonstrating a high impact of pesticides on the biology here.

We are very excited about the powers of SPEAR and its potential to answer some of the big questions we all have about what pesticides are doing to our water life.

We are keen to work with the EA to seek wider adoption of SPEAR in their invertebrate water quality monitoring and river classification under the Water Framework Directive (WFD).  In Europe, these measures of pesticide biological signatures are classed as WFD threshold failures for good ecological condition. We have already started analysing historic EA results with SPEAR.

We firmly believe the tool can be a great asset our quest to achieve more informed and effective management of our rivers.

For more information on the Riverfly Census email or click the button below:

To learn more about SPEAR click the following links: