Angling club lodges legal complaint with Europe against Scottish Government over failure to protect salmon

In an unprecedented move Brechin Angling Club (Brechin AC), supported by the Salmon & Trout Association (S&TA), has submitted a formal complaint to the European Commission over the Scottish Government’s failure to protect salmon stocks in the River South Esk Special Area of Conservation (SAC). This follows the Government’s refusal, contrary to the advice of its own scientists, to back the Esk District Salmon Fishery Board’s application for conservation measures restricting salmon netting in the spring.

The complaint, prepared by lawyer Guy Linley-Adams, cites numerous breaches by Scottish Government in relation to the requirements of the EC Habitats Directive in protecting salmon in the South Esk – not only in relation to spring salmon stocks, which are in long-term decline, but also later running fish that will be impacted by the unparalleled proposal by Scottish Government to extend netting into September. In addition the complaint identifies Scottish Government’s general failure to “establish appropriate management plans specifically designed for those SACs designated for Atlantic salmon to address the particular threat posed by mixed stock fisheries”.

Byron Pace, spokesman for Brechin AC, said: “From our perspective, we could not in all good conscience sit on our hands, as the sustainable future of the South Esk came under this increased threat; to do so would have been irresponsible and unforgivable. Due to the Scottish Government’s dismissal of the proposed conservation measures, we have been forced to take this to Europe, in the hope we can prevent the damaging effects of increased netting on an already fragile water course”.

The complaint has been filed in conjunction with the Salmon & Trout Association and further details are available at www.salmon-trout.org Paul Knight, S&TA CEO, commented: “We view the Esks case as an example of a national malaise. It is indicative of a lamentable lack of political commitment to protect a wild natural resource in line with our international obligations”.

Guy Linley-Adams added: “The Scottish Government has placed far too much emphasis on the interference in the property rights of the netsmen and not enough on its obligations to protect the South Esk SAC’s spring salmon stocks. I believe the European Commission will follow long-established European and indeed UK law that has repeated confirmed that the private property rights of individuals are subject to the wider need to conserve species and habitats in the wider public interest.

The proposal to extend the netting season into September appears to be a ‘gift’ to the netsmen and will itself require appropriate assessment under the Habitats Directive”.

The Water White Paper: A Welcome Start – But Where is the Will to Win?

Salmon & Trout Association fears lack of commitment in key areas

Water for Life, the Government’s plan for future water management, is now published. It acknowledges that Britain faces a future of water shortages, and lasting environmental damage, with some rivers running dry, unless attitudes to water use change dramatically. It promises a new approach to water management to mitigate the severe weather events, population growth and the need to grow more food that it predicts will impact on the aquatic environment in the future.

It outlines changes designed to promote a “more robust and prepared water industry” as well as encouraging water efficiency measures for water companies and consumers alike. Issues of abstraction are also addressed, with a promise of a reformed water abstraction regime over the long term, as well as a new catchment approach to dealing with water quality and wider environmental issues.

Paul Knight, Salmon & Trout Association (S&TA) CEO, declares: “Of course, as a member of the Blueprint for Water group, we welcome what initiatives there are in the White paper. But we have grave concerns that too much emphasis is being placed on incentives to water companies, rather than a clear commitment to enforce existing legislation regarding water protection, particularly in areas of excessive abstraction. With drought a real threat in many parts of the country now, this is a critical matter.”

He points out that Water for Life includes several proposals for deregulating and simplifying legislation, to reduce burdens on business and stimulate growth. “Despite soothing words of reassurance, does this mean that abstraction licenses will be more readily available, or that water companies can obtain their water from unsustainable sources? For instance, the White paper includes plans to trade under utilised licenses, but can we be genuinely assured that this will not lead to increased abstraction in stressed areas? We are concerned that while individual proposals may seem sensible, a holistic approach to the problem is lacking, which could mean that, once again, our fragile aquatic environment is not sufficiently protected against increased degradation.”

He adds, “Everyone involved with the health of our aquatic environment knows that the framework of water management has to be sustainable and planned for the long-term. Our fear is that this important document falls short of the Government’s own commitments to deliver good ecological status, or at least potential, in all our rivers under the Water Framework Directive.”

www.salmon-trout.org is RELAUNCHED

Contemporary design, easy navigation and rich content make this website the www destination for everyone concerned about our aquatic environment

The Salmon & Trout Association (S&TA) has relaunched its website (www.salmon-trout.org) as part of its overall strategy to respond proactively and creatively to the expectations of the growing number of people who use the internet and online services as a first resource for information, purchasing, communicating.

The Home page sets the scene with a clean, elegant design and clearly signposted destinations. S&TA’s famed advocacy projects are highlighted down the right hand side, with each campaign featuring its own colour coding for easy recognition. Interactive features – S&TA’s videos, blogs, facebook and E-News – are given particular prominence. Striking flash images just under the masthead headline breaking news, announcements and latest activities. And, because more and more members are using the website to join or renew their membership, the navigation from home to recruitment pages has been considerably streamlined. From the arresting Join Now box on the Home page to the membership form takes just three clicks.

“What lies beneath is important,” Paul Knight, S&TA CEO, explains. “Our website has always enjoyed a deserved reputation for offering serious in-depth, science based analysis of the issues facing the aquatic environment today. However, we are very aware that people need to acquire their information quickly and memorably. All that essential information and those research papers are still on site, but each issue now has its own landing page that clearly summarises the problem, the status, the ongoing activity. The read more facility then takes the visitor on as far as he or she wants to go.”

He adds, “Interactivity and the capability of reacting quickly to important new events are key features that pull many new visitors in. There will always be something noteworthy on the site! S&TA is unique in that it is the only UK fisheries charity which campaigns politically for the management, protection and conservation of fish and the environments necessary for them to thrive. The website is designed to enhance and underpin this position.”

The S&TA website was designed by Figaro Brands and built and maintained by 360ss.

Launch of Thames Tunnel Now!

Today (31st October), 15 major environmental charities and amenity groups representing over 5 million people have come together in a unique coalition in support of proposals to construct the Thames Tunnel to end the scandal of 39 million tonnes of untreated sewage which enters the capitals river every year. Please see below the joint statement agreed by the Thames Tunnel Now partners, including Salmon & Trout Association, RSPB, WWF, Thames21, Angling Trust and London Wildlife Trust.

Support the Thames Tunnel Now!

A coalition of national and local organisations has called for MPs and local councils to support the construction of a new tunnel under the Thames which will stop tens of millions of tonnes of sewage overflowing into Londons river each year. The tunnel proposal, which is the result of more than ten years of exhaustive research and development by Thames Water and the Environment Agency, is the only viable solution to dealing with "Londons dirty secret" when as little as 2mm of rain falls in the capital, the sewers overflow into the river.

David Walliams fell ill recently while swimming the length of the river as a result of swallowing river water. Thousands of people use the river for rowing, angling, sailing and canoeing. Many walkers and cyclists use the towpath, and adults and children go on to the foreshore where sewage is deposited. Many thousands more would be encouraged to make use of Londons greatest natural asset if it were not routinely polluted with sewage from Londons population which has grown from 2.5 million in 1865 when the sewers were built to 8 million today.
Sewage overflows in the summer are particularly damaging to wildlife in the river, which supports a wide range of freshwater and marine fish. The Thames has been described as a wildlife superhighway through the capital and is an important nursery area for millions bass and flounder – very important commercial and recreational angling fish species. Every time there is a major overflow of sewage, tens of thousands of these fish die, damaging the fragile eco-system.

It is a large scale problem which requires a large scale solution for the capital for at least the next 120 years. It will cost £3.6 billion, and will be paid for by Thames Water customers, each household will pay £60–65 extra a year, with bills starting to rise in 2013. Thames Water bills are currently among the lowest in the country and the new higher rates will still be lower than many other water companies in the UK. Construction of the tunnel will create 4,000 direct jobs and many more associated jobs as well as a clean and healthy tidal river which could support many thousands more employment opportunities in recreation, leisure and tourism industries of the future.

A spokesperson for the coalition said:

"It is completely unacceptable for people to be faced with raw sewage in one of the most sophisticated cities in the world, and for tens of thousands of fish to die from suffocation every time it rains heavily in the summer. Opponents of the scheme should ask themselves if they would like their child to go sailing or fishing among human faeces, sanitary towels and condoms, or if they would like a healthy river full of wildlife for millions of people to enjoy for generations to come. We call on the Thames Tunnel Now Coalitios collective membership to encourage their MPs and London local authorities to support this pioneering project – which is the only real option for a clean Thames – today."

The scheme faces opposition from a small but vocal group of local authorities who have raised concerns about the construction sites and other essential temporary infrastructure. As a result, they are likely to oppose the whole basis for the scheme during the second phase of a major public consultation process which will be launched on Friday 4th November, and threaten to create costly delays to the implementation of the scheme. Delay means continuing the harm heaped onto the capitals environment.

Carlo Laurenzi OBE, Chief Executive of London Wildlife Trust, says

"The Thames Tunnel is an important project for the long term health of the River Thames. At the moment untreated sewage overflows into the Thames regularly, as the Victorian sewerage system cannot cope with Londons current population. A less polluted river would create greatly improved conditions for a wide range of wildlife. We all must ensure the wider legacy of the Tunnel is one of ecological gain along its whole route. London Wildlife Trust calls for proper and creative mitigation in excess of any damage caused during the construction phase, for the benefit of both wildlife and local residents."

New Laws may restrict Fish Farming

Anglers and landowners claim parasites from farms are partly to blame for declines in wild salmon and sea trout stocks

Anglers and landowners claim parasites from farms are partly to blame for declines in wild salmon and sea trout stocks.

New legislation may prevent fish farming in coastal areas deemed important for the survival of wild fish stocks, a BBC investigation is to reveal.

BBC Scotland Investigates: Scotland’s Fishy Secrets reported that the Scottish Government could follow the example of Norway where the law has restricted the spread of fish farms after growing concerns over the depletion of wild fish stocks.
The investigation reported that anglers and landowners claim parasites from farms are partly to blame for declines in wild salmon and sea trout stocks.
Science correspondent Ken MacDonald interviewed Environment Minister Stewart Stevenson for the programme.

He asked the minister if new legislation planned for later this year might see farms banned from areas that are important to wild stocks.
Mr Stevenson replied: “Of course it may do – and we’ll consult on that. Everything is open for discussion.
“But we have to have the consultation, we have to understand in the environment we have in Scotland what the effects of different options would be.”
Mr Stevenson also said he is considering forcing salmon farmers to publish information about lice levels on specific farms.

Critics of the fish farm industry have called for the measure, which has been implemented by the Norwegian government.
The programme reported that the fish farming industry in Scotland argues there is no evidence that problems with the parasites – known as sea lice – are responsible for declines in wild fish stocks.

On the brink: Conservationists reveal the rivers still suffering

Last week the Environment Agency released a list of the ten most improved rivers in England and Wales. Conservationists have criticised the report saying it presents a rosy view of river health and ignores the many waterways struggling with pollution, over abstraction and other threats.

Last week the Environment Agency released a list of the ten most improved rivers in England and Wales. Conservationists have criticised the report saying it presents a rosy view of river health and ignores the many waterways struggling with pollution, over abstraction and other threats.

River wildlife experts at the RSPB, WWF, the Angling Trust and the Salmon and Trout Association – all partners in the Our Rivers Campaign – have responded with a list of ten rivers where not enough is being done to tackle these environmental pressures.

This list paints a different picture – one in which salmon, trout, watervoles and other river wildlife are under threat. Two thirds of rivers in England and Wales are failing European targets for water quality and too little is being done to address this.

The only river to appear on both lists is the Thames. Despite the Environment Agency hailing the return of salmon to the river, a University of Exeter report revealed last week that attempts to create a self sustaining salmon population in the Thames have failed. The report claims that salmon found in the Thames were more likely to be strays from other rivers.

Jack Clarke, Our Rivers campaigner, said: "It is right to celebrate the improvements that our rivers have seen in recent decades – but we cannot ignore the continuing threats our native river wildlife faces.

"Most of the ten rivers highlighted in the Environment Agency’s report last week are doing well – but it is a different story for many hundreds of other rivers crossing England and Wales.

"The stories we hear from people living near these rivers are all too familiar – salmon and trout numbers at a fraction of their former levels, sewage being released directly into the waterway, riverbeds drying up in the summer due to unsustainable abstraction. The ten rivers we have chosen illustrate these problems, but they are only examples of a much wider issue.

"We are failing European targets for river health in a big way – and no amount of glossy PR from the Environment Agency is going to change that. Instead we need to see more ambition in their plans to restore rivers and we need reassurances that the Government’s upcoming Water White Paper will tackle the serious problem of over abstraction which is threatening river wildlife."

The Our Rivers campaign is currently running an online survey to help paint a picture of the state of rivers in England and Wales and find the best places to spot river wildlife. The survey results will also highlight species which have disappeared along certain rivers. To take part visit www.ourrivers.org.uk/survey

The ten rivers chosen by the Our Rivers campaign

River Thames – Water quality in the Thames has improved over the past 50 years. This has come about through a combination of industrial decline, investment, and the hard work of the Environment Agency, conservationists and members of the public. But pretending that the Thames has been transformed into a pristine river supporting healthy salmon populations is a step too far, as highlighted by the University of Exeter report into salmon populations in the river which concluded: "Our findings highlight the futility of long-term stocking without corresponding improvements in habitat and water quality."

Hampshire Avon – Salmon catches on the Hampshire Avon have fallen dramatically from a peak of 1,400 fish a year in the early 1970’s to around 200 fish in recent years. Salmon are a good indicator of the overall health of a freshwater ecosystem. The Environment Agency has confirmed that the Hampshire Avon has failed to reach the official conservation limit for salmon and the population is at risk. The river has also seen a dramatic fall in roach populations.

River Rea – The River Rea in Birmingham suffers so much from urban diffuse pollution from the City of Birmingham that sections are designated by the Environment Agency as "Bad" for insect life under the Water Framework Directive. This is the worst category that the Environment Agency uses to classify rivers. Birmingham City Council have obtained funding to try to address this issue but it will take many years before we see improvements to this and to the river bed.

River Trent – The River Trent from Stoke on Trent to the confluence of the River Tame is designated "Poor" for all fish due to urban diffuse pollution from Stoke resulting in ammonia and phosphate levels in the water which have been found to be at unacceptable levels. Historical changes to the river channel compound this issue.

River Kennet – This much loved chalk stream, the longest tributary of the Thames, is perilously low this September, due to low rainfall and high levels of abstraction. Local group Action for the River Kennet was set up 20 years ago to campaign for a reduction in abstraction on this river. Despite their efforts, and agreement from both the Environment Agency and the water company that a reduced licence is needed, nothing has yet been done. In fact, earlier this year the EA renewed Thames Water’s abstraction license despite clear and critical issues of over abstraction on this river.

River Beane – This river was once a thriving chalk stream, but today in its upper stretches it has almost disappeared due to high levels of water abstraction. The Environment Agency first confirmed there was a problem on this river over a decade ago, and the local water company has identified a plan to help revive the river. Yet, no action has been taken – much to the frustration of the River Beane Restoration Association.

River Mimram – Issues of over abstraction on this river, a Site of Special Scientific Interest at Tewin, have been identified since the early 1990s when it was claimed to be one of the worst affected rivers in the country. Twenty years on there has been little improvement. Friends of the Mimram have been working with the local water company and the Environment Agency – who have agreed that action is needed, but yet to be taken.

River Ivel – The Ivel in Bedfordshire rises crystal clear from springs in Hitchin, Hertfordshire but as it wends its short course north through Bedfordshire to meet the Ouse, pollution from sewage, roads and farming leave the water grey and cloudy after rainfall and non native species like the north American crayfish are taking their toll on wildlife. The entire river fails to meet the Water Framework Directive’s ‘Good’ status and with the Environment Agency’s River Basin Management Plan not including any actions for improvement by 2015 it looks like nothing is going change.

River Wye – The Wye is so special it has every legal protection that can be offered but even this jewel in the crown of our river network continues to suffer. Acid water from forestry, manmade barriers to fish migration, sediment from poor farming practice which smother salmon eggs (depriving them of the water and oxygen they need to survive) and heavy abstraction all work to reduce the quality of this once great river. The Wye and Usk Foundation and others are doing their best to redress the balance but all is far from well in the nation’s favourite river.

River Ray –  The River Ray in Oxfordshire, which runs past the RSPB’s Otmoor reserve and a Site of Special Scientific Interest nearby would once have fed wetland habitats but today its waters are deliberately diverted away from wildlife areas. It is infested with the weed azolla – or water fern – one of the UK’s most invasive non native plants. It also contains high levels of pollution from agricultural chemicals and from a sewage works upstream of the reserve.

DOES A PROPOSED HYDROPOWER SCHEME CONCERN YOU?

Are you worried that the cumulative effects of multiple hydro schemes in one catchment have not been sufficiently considered? Has sufficient protection been given to ensure schemes will not adversely impact fish populations? Should a fish passage be paid for by the developer? These are some of the important considerations highlighted by the S&TA to help members respond to the Hydropower Good Practice Guidelines Consultation.

Are you worried that the cumulative effects of multiple hydro schemes in one catchment have not been sufficiently considered? Has sufficient protection been given to ensure schemes will not adversely impact fish populations? Should a fish passage be paid for by the developer? These are some of the important considerations highlighted by the S&TA to help members respond to the Hydropower Good Practice Guidelines Consultation.

The consultation ends on 23rd September. IT IS VITAL, if a hydropower scheme is proposed/planned on a river you fish, own, or care about, that you register your concerns before that date. Evidence is key! Please take the time to go to: https://consult.environment-agency.gov.uk/portal/ho/br/gpg/review and respond. The attached S&TA/AT crib sheet is designed, along with your experience of hydropower schemes on your local rivers, to help you with your response. If you need further information, please do not hesitate to contact S&TA’s Head of Science, janina@salmon-trout.org with your queries.

A new hydropower scheme on any river has the potential to create irreparable damage to the aquatic environment UNLESS it is properly designed and constructed as part of an overall catchment management plan, taking into account cumulative effects of multiple hydro installations. This is your opportunity to ensure that all necessary precautions are put in place first to protect our fragile aquatic eco-systems.

Please don’t delay!

S&TA Launches STAndupforwildsalmon.org at Game Fair (22 – 24 July)

Are you worried that the cumulative effects of multiple hydro schemes in one catchment have not been sufficiently considered? Has sufficient protection been given to ensure schemes will not adversely impact fish populations? Should a fish passage be paid for by the developer? These are some of the important considerations highlighted by the S&TA to help members respond to the Hydropower Good Practice Guidelines Consultation.

Are you worried that the cumulative effects of multiple hydro schemes in one catchment have not been sufficiently considered? Has sufficient protection been given to ensure schemes will not adversely impact fish populations? Should a fish passage be paid for by the developer? These are some of the important considerations highlighted by the S&TA to help members respond to the Hydropower Good Practice Guidelines Consultation.

The consultation ends on 23rd September. IT IS VITAL, if a hydropower scheme is proposed/planned on a river you fish, own, or care about, that you register your concerns before that date. Evidence is key! Please take the time to go to: https://consult.environment-agency.gov.uk/portal/ho/br/gpg/review and respond. The attached S&TA/AT crib sheet is designed, along with your experience of hydropower schemes on your local rivers, to help you with your response. If you need further information, please do not hesitate to contact S&TA’s Head of Science, janina@salmon-trout.org with your queries.

A new hydropower scheme on any river has the potential to create irreparable damage to the aquatic environment UNLESS it is properly designed and constructed as part of an overall catchment management plan, taking into account cumulative effects of multiple hydro installations. This is your opportunity to ensure that all necessary precautions are put in place first to protect our fragile aquatic eco-systems.

Please don’t delay!

Where is our river wildlife?

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall supports launch of new riverbank nature survey

Where is the best river to spot water voles? Which county is a hotspot for kingfishers? Which waterways are teeming with trout?

A major new public survey launched today (Monday, July 11) at www.ourrivers.org.uk is aiming to answer these questions and more by collecting information about the wildlife people in England and Wales encounter on their local river.

The survey results will be used in the second annual awards from the Our Rivers campaign, led by WWF-UK, RSPB, the Angling Trust and the Salmon and Trout Association. The awards will include the best rivers for spotting wildlife and the county whose rivers are most treasured by local people.

Last year thousands of people took part in the first public awards carried out by the Our Rivers campaign to find the nation’s favourite river. The River Wye won the public poll, while the River Thames was highlighted as people’s least favourite waterway.

Jack Clarke, from the Our Rivers campaign, said: "Rivers are fantastic places to watch wildlife – from the lazy glide of a graceful swan and the blue flash of a diving kingfisher to the spectacle of leaping salmon and the summer emergence of dragonflies.

"Many of us have a river close to our homes where we love to walk, fish or simply sit and reflect and we’re hoping we can encourage this national army of river wildlife spotters to tell us what they have seen.

"We’re really looking forward to hearing which species people have seen in their area, but we are also asking what has changed and been lost. As well as encouraging people to enjoy their local river wildlife there is also serious, and worrying, message behind this.

"Much of our native river wildlife is threatened by rural and urban pollution, over abstraction, sewage discharges and invasive species. An official Environment Agency report says nearly three quarters of rivers in England and Wales are failing European environmental targets.

"We need to raise awareness of these issues and put pressure on the Government to do something about them ahead of the publication of the upcoming Water White Paper. This document will set out how our Government cares for our river network and the wildlife that depends on it."

TV chef, wildlife lover and keen angler Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is supporting the survey and has spoken about spotting wildlife on the River Axe, which runs close to his River Cottage headquarters in Dorset.

"I love the Axe, and particularly the Axe estuary," he said. "It’s such a pretty little river, and full of bounty.

"The sea trout which I can never catch. The samphire which fortunately has nowhere to run and hide. And the wonderful wading birds, godwits, egrets and curlew, that strut and stab along the muddy flanks of the estuary.

"Now I have a little fishing boat in Seaton harbour, I’m down there as often as I can be. It’s a challenging tidal harbour to get in and out of, especially when the tide’s coming in at 5 knots, and the top speed of your boat is 5 and a half!"

The Government’s upcoming Water White Paper will set out its ambitions for improving river and wetlands and Our Rivers supporters have been writing to environment minister Richard Benyon to make their voices heard.

The campaign is urging ministers to tackle the issue of over abstraction which results in low flowing waterways and dry riverbeds. The Government has itself identified 148 rivers where over abstraction is damaging rivers and wildlife they support, but there has been no action to reduce the amount of water taken.

The Water White Paper must set out a clear timetable and strategy for reducing damaging abstraction and demonstrate how more will be done to encourage water efficiency through universal metering and fixing our leaking network of water pipes.

THE SALMON & TROUT ASSOCIATION AT THE CLA GAME FAIR, BLENHEIM PALACE, WOODSTOCK 22 – 24 JULY

The Salmon & Trout Association’s CLA Game Fair tent is always a popular meeting point for fly fishers. In addition to the members’ hospitality area, offering catering through the day and a bar, the S&TA will, as usual, be co-ordinating casting lessons, given by GAIA-qualified instructors, running the casting competitions from the lake platforms and, in the tent area itself, is joined by the Riverfly Partnership and Fulling Mill, the leading supplier of fishing flies and other tackle, and which is offering special CLA Game Fair deals.

The Salmon & Trout Association’s CLA Game Fair tent is always a popular meeting point for fly fishers. In addition to the members’ hospitality area, offering catering through the day and a bar, the S&TA will, as usual, be co-ordinating casting lessons, given by GAIA-qualified instructors, running the casting competitions from the lake platforms and, in the tent area itself, is joined by the Riverfly Partnership and Fulling Mill, the leading supplier of fishing flies and other tackle, and which is offering special CLA Game Fair deals. S&TA staff will be on hand at all times to answer questions and discuss issues and problems.

Guy Linley-Adams, environmental lawyer and campaigner, who has been tasked to lead the S&TA campaign against unsustainable fish farming in north-west Scotland, will give a presentation and answer questions about his work and the progress the campaign has made. These talks will be at 11am and 3pm on Friday and on Saturday at the S&TA stand – No. K0936 in the Fishing Village