Norfolk chalkstream still under threat from pollution

S&TC has just completed the second year of its unique three-year national Riverfly Census. The census aims to assess the health of our English and Welsh rivers through monitoring the invertebrate communities that live below the surface.

This important research has revealed that nationally no significant improvement in the condition of our rivers and chalkstreams has occurred on the 12 rivers included in the study over the past two years. The results from the River Wensum indicate that pollution is a significant concern for this precious chalkstream.

According to S&TC the threat to our rivers has moved from industrial pollution to a range of more subtle but equally damaging impacts from excess phosphates and fine sediments. These enter our watercourses from sources such as agricultural and road run-off, poorly treated sewage, septic tanks, new developments and in certain areas discharges from watercress and fish farms.

Five sites were surveyed on the Wensum: Doughton Bridge, Fakenham Common, Pensthorpe Park, Sennowe Bridge and Bintree Mill. Mayfly species richness is under the level that would be expected for the middle reaches of a healthy chalkstream at all sites. In spring and autumn, sediment was at or above the level considered to have a detrimental impact on the invertebrate community for all five sites. Phosphorus levels were also at or above the level of concern at four sites in spring and two in autumn. Taken together, the spring and autumn results in 2016 show the Wensum’s water quality is under severe pressure from sedimentation and phosphate.

Dr Janina Gray, head of science with S&TC UK, said, “The results from the 2016 spring and autumn counts are concerning and reflect an increasing level of pollution entering this important chalkstream. Although the Wensum story is mostly negative, we were very encouraged by the passion of the farmers to help restore the river when we met last year. It will take time to get the river back to a healthy condition, but I am sure the dedication of the farmer’s working on their stretches of the Wensum will help to ensure ecological improvement occurs over the next few years.”

Understanding why and to what extent riverfly numbers, such as blue-winged olives, are declining is the first step in the process of safeguarding the aquatic environment.

Nick Measham, Campaign Manager at S&TC, said, “The aim of our Riverfly Census is to provide an accurate picture of water quality, to gauge the problems we are facing and to identify workable solutions to restore degraded watercourses. To do this, we analyse the invertebrates down to individual species rather than families. The increase in resolution is akin to moving from a magnifying glass to a microscope. The evidence from our Census is irrefutable. Increased phosphates and fine sediments are having a disastrous impact on invertebrate communities in our rivers. Loss of flylife causes major disruption to the delicate balance of the aquatic food chain, with fish, mammals and bird populations suffering as a result.”

As can be seen from the results of S&TC Riverfly Census on the Wensum it is imperative that people who care about their local river start to act now.

Nick Measham explains, “Our rivers and chalkstreams are wonderful places of solace. However, although these rivers may appear healthy, our research shows that there is a time-bomb lurking just below the surface.”

According to S&TC current river monitoring is often not picking up the pressures these rivers face. The charity is therefore calling for local people to challenge and act for their precious rivers.

Nick Measham explains, “We would like local people to help change the way our rivers are managed by demanding better protection and monitoring. We would urge them to get in touch with us so that we can take forward issues with local MPs or the Environment Agency.  This is a call to arms to everyone to help save our rivers and the important aquatic wildlife that clean water supports.”

Norfolk chalkstream still under threat from pollution

We have just completed the second year of our unique three-year national Riverfly Census. The census aims to assess the health of our English and Welsh rivers through monitoring water insects that live below the surface.

This important research has revealed that nationally no significant improvement in the condition of our rivers and chalkstreams has occurred on the 12 core study rivers included over the past two years. The results from the River Wensum indicate that pollution is a significant concern for this chalk stream.

The threat to our rivers has moved from industrial pollution to a range of more subtle but equally damaging impacts from excess phosphates and fine sediments. These enter our waters from sources such as farming and road run-off, poorly treated sewage, septic tanks, new developments and in certain areas discharges from watercress and fish farms.

Five sites were surveyed on the Wensum: Doughton Bridge, Fakenham Common, Pensthorpe Park, Sennowe Bridge and Bintry Mill. Mayfly species richness is under the level that would be expected for the middle reaches of a healthy chalkstream at all sites. In spring and autumn, sediment was at or above the level considered to have a detrimental impact on the invertebrate community for all five sites. Phosphorus levels were also at or above the level of concern at four sites in spring and two in autumn. Taken together, the spring and autumn results in 2016 show the Wensum's water quality is under severe pressure from sedimentation and phosphate.

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

"The results from the 2016 spring and autumn counts are concerning and reflect an increasing level of pollution entering this important chalkstream. Although the Wensum story is mostly negative, we were very encouraged by the passion of the farmers to help restore the river when we met last year. It will take time to get the river back to a healthy condition, but I am sure the dedication of the farmer's working on their stretches of the Wensum will help to ensure ecological improvement occurs over the next few years."

Understanding why and to what extent riverfly numbers, such as blue-winged olives, are declining is the first step in the process of safeguarding the aquatic environment.

Nick Measham, Freshwater Campaigns Manager at S&TC said:

"The aim of our Riverfly Census is to provide an accurate picture of water quality, to gauge the problems we are facing and to identify workable solutions to restore degraded watercourses. To do this, we analyse the invertebrates down to individual species rather than families. The increase in resolution is akin to moving from a magnifying glass to a microscope. The evidence from our Census is irrefutable. Increased phosphates and fine sediments are having a disastrous impact on invertebrate communities in our rivers. Loss of flylife causes major disruption to the delicate balance of the aquatic food chain, with fish, mammals and bird populations suffering as a result."

As can be seen from the results of S&TC Riverfly Census on the Wensum it is imperative that people who care about their local river start to act now.

Nick Measham explains:

"Our rivers and chalkstreams are wonderful places of solace. However, although these rivers may appear healthy, our research shows that things aren't always how they seem."

Current river monitoring is often not picking up the pressures these rivers face. We are therefore calling for local people to challenge and act for their rivers

We would like local people to help change the way our rivers are managed by demanding better protection and monitoring. We would urge them to get in touch with us so that we can take forward issues with local MPs or the Environment Agency. This is a call to arms to everyone to help save our rivers and the important aquatic wildlife that clean water supports.

For further information on the Riverfly Census or to contact Salmon & Trout Conservation, please email: lauren@salmon-trout.org

S&TC Scotland calls out the SSPO for use of alternative facts

River Awe grilse

The claim by the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation (“S&TCS ‘premature and over simplistic’ in claims about River Awe”, 9 August) that “the majority of grilse don’t return to the Awe until the autumn” shows how completely ignorant it is regarding the habits of wild Scottish salmon.

There has never been a significant run of fish (either grilse or salmon) in the autumn on the Awe since records began with the installation of the fish counter in 1965.

River Awe weekly count

Andrew Graham-Stewart, Director of S&TCS, said: “Such blatant use of ‘alternative facts’ is evidence of just how desperate SSPO is becoming in its vain attempts to defend the indefensible.”

Unprecedented collapse of salmon run in South-West Highlands underlines failure of Scottish Government to protect wild fish from the catastrophically negative impact of salmon farming

This year’s run of salmon in the most closely monitored river in Argyll is on course to be the lowest on record. The salmon count on the River Awe has hit an all-time low after 30 weeks of the season.

Last year’s total of 807 fish was only slightly above the all-time lowest count. This year it is running at only one third of the 2016 count. If this continues the final total will struggle to reach 400. This would be by far the lowest count of returning salmon to the biggest river in the South-West Highlands since records began in 1965.

River Awe salmon count

The Awe is a short river, draining Scotland’s longest loch (Loch Awe), with a hydro-electric dam at its head. There is a fish lift and a counter in the dam. The flow regime is such that fish can run the river any day of the year; almost all the fish are destined for the headwaters and thus there is a full river count which is almost unaffected by the weather.

Roger Brook, Chairman of the Argyll District Salmon Fishery Board, said:

“The Scottish Government has promoted the continued expansion of the salmon aquaculture industry whilst refusing to implement adequate control on the siting of farms and the levels of sea lice on the farms. We call upon Scottish Government to insist that future farms are sited away from the probable migration routes. The worst existing farms, both in terms of location and lice control, should now be closed.”

Mr Brook continued:

“Rivers such as the Awe are facing an uneconomic future but the government appears to care nothing about our iconic west Highland salmon and the important west coast tourist industry associated with recreational fishing. We are facing a very precarious future.”

Andrew Graham-Stewart, Director of Salmon and Trout Conservation Scotland (S&TC Scotland), said:

“Since the arrival of intensive salmon farming, numbers of mature west Highland sea trout have crashed. The decline in wild salmon numbers has not thus far been as extreme but it now appears that in the southern section of the west Highlands the decline is accelerating into a free fall.”

Mr Graham-Stewart added:

“Despite all the warnings regarding the consequences of pursuing the unfettered growth of salmon farming without any meaningful controls to protect wild fish, successive Scottish Governments have blundered on with this policy.”

In an attempt to quantify the effect of salmon aquaculture, a comparison can be made between salmon catches on the East coast of Scotland and the west coast between the Mull of Kintyre and Ardnamurchan Point (South-West Highlands). Between 1970 and 2014 rod catches of salmon on the East coast increased by almost 40%. Over the same time period rod catches in the South-West Highlands declined by 50%. See here.

Juvenile salmon migrating from rivers in the South-West Highlands must run the gauntlet close to lice-producing salmon farms not only in the immediate area but also the whole way up the west coast before they reach open ocean, free of aquaculture. Throughout this coastal migration they are vulnerable to infestation by deadly sea lice. It stands to reason that, the more salmon farms that outgoing juvenile salmon have to negotiate past on their migration to the North Atlantic feeding grounds, the less likely they are to survive.

The other major river in the South-West Highlands is the Lochy, which enters the sea by Fort William. The published rod catch of salmon to the end of July was 33, summed up by the river’s management as “the worst start in recent times.” The catch to the end of July was just 27% of the five year average for the same period. See http://www.fishpal.com/Scotland/Lochaber/lochy/?dom=Pal

In June, the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, in response to a formal Petition lodged in the Scottish Parliament in February 2016 by S&TC Scotland seeking protection for wild salmonids from sea lice from Scottish salmon farms, agreed to launch an Inquiry (scheduled for early 2018) into salmon farming in Scotland and the issues raised by S&TC Scotland.

S&TC Scotland believes that a future is possible where Scottish salmon farming and wild fish can both thrive but in the medium term this can only be achieved by moving farming into closed containment tank systems, thus preventing the spread of disease and parasites from the farms to wild salmon and sea trout. In the meantime effective regulation of farms to protect wild fish is long overdue.

ENDS

Issued by Andrew Graham-Stewart (telephone 01863 766767 or 07812 981531) on behalf of Salmon and Trout Conservation Scotland.

Notes for editors

1) Salmon & Trout Conservation UK (S&TC UK) was established as the Salmon & Trout Association (S&TA) in 1903 to address the damage done to our rivers by the polluting effects of the Industrial Revolution. Since then, S&TC UK has worked to protect fisheries, fish stocks and the wider aquatic environment for the public benefit. S&TC UK has charitable status in both England and Scotland (as S&TC Scotland) and its charitable objectives empower it to address all issues affecting fish and the aquatic environment, supported by robust evidence from its scientific network, and to take the widest possible remit in protecting salmonid fish stocks and the aquatic environment upon which they depend. www.salmon-trout.org    www.salmon-troutscotland.org

2) Scottish Government action required

Fisheries scientists – including the Scottish Government’s own scientists – are firm in their conclusions that sea lice produced on fish-farms harm wild salmon and sea trout, both at an individual and at a population level. However, S&TC Scotland believes that these threats are not being addressed by effective regulation and control of sea lice numbers on fish-farms in Scotland, which are essential to protect wild fish populations, many already significantly reduced.

3) Just what is the problem with sea lice?

Adult wild salmon are perfectly adapted to coping with a few sea lice. Background levels of these parasites occur naturally in the sea. However, the advent of salmon farming, particularly in fjordic or largely enclosed sea lochs, has led to a fundamental change in the density and occurrence of sea lice in parts of the coastal waters of the west Highlands and Islands. Even one or two mature female sea lice per fish within a set of cages housing hundreds of thousands of farmed salmon amounts to a large breeding reservoir that releases huge numbers of mobile juvenile sea lice out into the local marine environment. The consequences when wild salmon and sea trout smolts, the metamorphosing fragile skin of which is not adapted to cope with more than the odd louse, migrate from local rivers, can be very serious.

Carrying an unnaturally high burden of sea lice is known to compromise severely the survival of juvenile migratory salmonids. Lice feed by grazing on the surface of the fish and eating the mucous and skin. Large numbers of lice soon cause the loss of fins, severe scarring, secondary infections and, in time, death. Badly infested salmon smolts disappear out to sea, never to be seen again. In contrast, afflicted sea trout smolts remain within the locality and they, together with the impact of the lice burdens they carry, are more easily monitored through sweep net operations.

Mounting evidence of need to modernise salmon farming – collapse of salmon run in South-West Highlands

This year’s run of salmon in the most closely monitored river in Argyll is on course to be the lowest on record. The salmon count on the River Awe has hit an all-time low after 30 weeks of the season.

Last year’s total of 807 fish was only slightly above the all-time lowest count. This year it is running at only one third of the 2016 count. If this continues the final total will struggle to reach 400. This would be by far the lowest count of returning salmon to the biggest river in the South-West Highlands since records began in 1965.

River Awe salmon count

The Awe is a short river, draining Scotland’s longest loch (Loch Awe), with a hydro-electric dam at its head. There is a fish lift and a counter in the dam. The flow regime is such that fish can run the river any day of the year; almost all the fish are destined for the headwaters and thus there is a full river count which is almost unaffected by the weather.

Roger Brook, Chairman of the Argyll District Salmon Fishery Board, said:

“The Scottish Government has promoted the continued expansion of the salmon aquaculture industry whilst refusing to implement adequate control on the siting of farms and the levels of sea lice on the farms. We call upon Scottish Government to insist that future farms are sited away from the probable migration routes. The worst existing farms, both in terms of location and lice control, should now be closed.”

Mr Brook continued:

“Rivers such as the Awe are facing an uneconomic future but the government appears to care nothing about our iconic west Highland salmon and the important west coast tourist industry associated with recreational fishing. We are facing a very precarious future.”

Andrew Graham-Stewart, Director of Salmon and Trout Conservation Scotland (S&TC Scotland) said:

“Since the arrival of intensive salmon farming, numbers of mature west Highland sea trout have crashed. The decline in wild salmon numbers has not thus far been as extreme but it now appears that in the southern section of the west Highlands the decline is accelerating into a free fall. Despite all the warnings regarding the consequences of pursuing the unfettered growth of salmon farming without any meaningful controls to protect wild fish, successive Scottish Governments have blundered on with this policy.”

In an attempt to quantify the effect of salmon farming, a comparison can be made between salmon catches on the East coast of Scotland and the west coast between the Mull of Kintyre and Ardnamurchan Point (South-West Highlands). Between 1970 and 2014 rod catches of salmon on the East coast increased by almost 40%. Over the same time period rod catches in the South-West Highlands declined by 50%. See here.

Juvenile salmon migrating from rivers in the South-West Highlands must run the gauntlet close to lice-producing salmon farms not only in the immediate area but also the whole way up the west coast before they reach open ocean, free of aquaculture. Throughout this coastal migration they are vulnerable to infestation by deadly sea lice. It stands to reason that, the more salmon farms that outgoing juvenile salmon have to negotiate past on their migration to the North Atlantic feeding grounds, the less likely they are to survive.

The other major river in the South-West Highlands is the Lochy, which enters the sea by Fort William. The published rod catch of salmon to the end of July was 33, summed up by the river’s management as “the worst start in recent times.” The catch to the end of July was just 27% of the five year average for the same period.

In June, the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, in response to a formal Petition lodged in the Scottish Parliament in February 2016 by S&TC Scotland seeking protection for wild salmonids from sea lice from Scottish salmon farms, agreed to launch an Inquiry (scheduled for early 2018) into salmon farming in Scotland and the issues we have raised in throughout our salmon farm reform campaign.

We believe that a future is possible where Scottish salmon farming and wild fish can both thrive. In the medium term this can only be achieved by moving farming into closed containment tank systems, thus preventing the spread of disease and parasites from the farms to wild salmon and sea trout. In the meantime effective regulation of farms to protect wild fish is long overdue.

Unprecedented collapse of salmon run in South-West Highlands underlines failure of Scottish Government to protect wild fish from the catastrophically negative impact of salmon farming

This year's run of salmon in the most closely monitored river in Argyll is on course to be the lowest on record. The salmon count on the River Awe has hit an all-time low after 30 weeks of the season.

Last year's total of 807 fish was only slightly above the all-time lowest count. This year it is running at only one third of the 2016 count. If this continues the final total will struggle to reach 400. This would be by far the lowest count of returning salmon to the biggest river in the South-West Highlands since records began in 1965.

River Awe salmon count

The Awe is a short river, draining Scotland's longest loch (Loch Awe), with a hydro-electric dam at its head. There is a fish lift and a counter in the dam. The flow regime is such that fish can run the river any day of the year; almost all the fish are destined for the headwaters and thus there is a full river count which is almost unaffected by the weather.

Roger Brook, Chairman of the Argyll District Salmon Fishery Board, said:

"The Scottish Government has promoted the continued expansion of the salmon aquaculture industry whilst refusing to implement adequate control on the siting of farms and the levels of sea lice on the farms. We call upon Scottish Government to insist that future farms are sited away from the probable migration routes. The worst existing farms, both in terms of location and lice control, should now be closed."

Mr Brook continued:

"Rivers such as the Awe are facing an uneconomic future but the government appears to care nothing about our iconic west Highland salmon and the important west coast tourist industry associated with recreational fishing. We are facing a very precarious future."

Andrew Graham-Stewart, Director of Salmon & Trout Conservation Scotland (S&TC Scotland), said:

"Since the arrival of intensive salmon farming, numbers of mature west Highland sea trout have crashed. The decline in wild salmon numbers has not thus far been as extreme but it now appears that in the southern section of the west Highlands the decline is accelerating into a free fall."

Mr Graham-Stewart added:

"Despite all the warnings regarding the consequences of pursuing the unfettered growth of salmon farming without any meaningful controls to protect wild fish, successive Scottish Governments have blundered on with this policy."

In an attempt to quantify the effect of salmon aquaculture, a comparison can be made between salmon catches on the East coast of Scotland and the west coast between the Mull of Kintyre and Ardnamurchan Point (South-West Highlands). Between 1970 and 2014 rod catches of salmon on the East coast increased by almost 40%. Over the same time period rod catches in the South-West Highlands declined by 50%. See here.

Juvenile salmon migrating from rivers in the South-West Highlands must run the gauntlet close to lice-producing salmon farms not only in the immediate area but also the whole way up the west coast before they reach open ocean, free of aquaculture. Throughout this coastal migration they are vulnerable to infestation by deadly sea lice. It stands to reason that, the more salmon farms that outgoing juvenile salmon have to negotiate past on their migration to the North Atlantic feeding grounds, the less likely they are to survive.

The other major river in the South-West Highlands is the Lochy, which enters the sea by Fort William. The published rod catch of salmon to the end of July was 33, summed up by the river's management as "the worst start in recent times." The catch to the end of July was just 27% of the five year average for the same period. See http://www.fishpal.com/Scotland/Lochaber/lochy/?dom=Pal

In June, the Scottish Parliament's Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, in response to a formal Petition lodged in the Scottish Parliament in February 2016 by S&TC Scotland seeking protection for wild salmonids from sea lice from Scottish salmon farms, agreed to launch an Inquiry (scheduled for early 2018) into salmon farming in Scotland and the issues raised by S&TC Scotland.

We believe that a future is possible where Scottish salmon farming and wild fish can both thrive but in the medium term this can only be achieved by moving farming into closed containment tank systems, thus preventing the spread of disease and parasites from the farms to wild salmon and sea trout. In the meantime effective regulation of farms to protect wild fish is long overdue.

Issued by Andrew Graham-Stewart (telephone 01863 766767 or 07812 981531) on behalf of Salmon & Trout Conservation Scotland.

 

Aliens in the app – Our invasive species series

We are releasing an 'invasive species' series, so you can help to identify species in your river that shouldn't be there!

The update contains detailed images on two non-native shrimp – the demon shrimp and the killer shrimp. These shrimps are very bad news for our native shrimp (Gammarus pulex).

Let us know any sightings of these aliens and report them to your local Environment Agency as a matter of urgency.

For all water users, by simply following the Check Clean Dry process, you can do your bit to stop the spread of invasive species.

Download the app from: www.riverinvertebratelarvae.co.uk.

Aliens in the app! Our invasive species series

Invasive Species Series

We are releasing an invasive species series, an update the S&TC river invertebrate app, so users can now identify creatures in their rivers that shouldn’t be there!

The update contains detailed images on two non-native shrimp – the demon shrimp and the killer shrimp. These shrimps are very bad news for our native shrimp (Gammarus pulex) as they destroy habitats and out-compete them for survival.

Let us know of any sightings of these aliens and report them to your local Environment Agency as a matter of urgency.

For all water users, by simply following the Check Clean Dry process – you can do your bit to stop the spread of invasive species.

Find out more about our app and download it.

invasive spcecies

New research project aims to help tackle pollution in Welsh rivers

Press Release

Issued by Salmon & Trout Conservation Cymru

The worrying increase in the pollution of rivers in Wales has led to the launch of a three-year scientific monitoring programme by Salmon & Trout Conservation Cymru (S&TC Cymru), which aims to assess the health of our valuable freshwater environments.

The study in Wales follows on from the existing Riverfly Census on 12 rivers in England over the past two years, which has already identified that many of the country's precious rivers and chalkstreams are in a perilous condition.

Richard Garner Williams, S&TC's National Officer for Wales, explains the science, "Last autumn saw the start of our innovative Riverfly Census monitoring programme in Wales. This highly informative method of analysis aims to assess the health of our rivers through monitoring the strength and diversity of freshwater invertebrate communities. The loss of the aquatic stages in the lifecycles of invertebrates such as caddisflies and mayflies causes major disruption to the delicate balance of the aquatic food chain, with fish, mammals and bird populations suffering as a result.

Significantly, different invertebrate species have unique tolerances to specific types of pollution. Therefore, the presence or absence of a species provides an excellent indicator of the underlying ecological condition of our rivers and accurately pin-points potential pollution sources.

According to S&TC the threat to our rivers has moved from industrial pollution to a range of more subtle but equally damaging impacts, including the pollution from some forms of intensive agricultural production, which can be toxic to river insects – a vital part of the food chain within rivers.

The three rivers included in the Riverfly Census in Wales – the Clwyd, Usk and Cleddau Ddu or Eastern Cleddau – represent a good geographical spread across the country. Over the next few years S&TC Cymru will be able to gather crucial evidence about the condition of these rivers and, when problems are identified, to develop workable solutions to reverse the decline in biodiversity and water quality.

Richard Garner Williams said, "The results from the 2016 autumn sampling have formed an important baseline for measuring the condition of these rivers in subsequent years. Early results on the Eastern Cleddau and, to a lesser extent the Clwyd, indicate that agricultural pollution may be taking its toll. In contrast, the early results on the River Usk are more promising, but there is never any room for complacency and we need more data over future years to provide an accurate picture."

Dr Janina Gray, Head of Science with S&TC said, "Understanding why and to what extent riverfly numbers, such as blue-winged olives, are declining is the first step in the process of safeguarding the aquatic environment. We are using our results in England to help fuel real improvements on our rivers. For example, we have worked with the local Environment Agency on the Test and Itchen in Hampshire to agree bespoke targets for mayfly species to drive improvements. We now want to be just as forensic in Welsh rivers!"

Richard Garner Williams said, "Pollution incidents are occurring far too frequently in Wales, especially in the milkfields of West Wales, where waste products from intensive dairy production are having a devastating impact on the freshwater environment. This is a major concern for all of us who care about our rivers and aquatic wildlife. However, the results from our Riverfly Census will help to provide the scientific evidence needed to identify specific problems and to develop workable solutions in order to guide meaningful restoration and avoid further incidents. We look forward to working with Natural Resources Wales, the Welsh Government and other stakeholders to ensure this happens for the benefit of our rivers and the wild fish of Wales, both now and in the future."

For further information the Riverfly Census in Wales, please contact: Richard Garner Williams on: wales@salmon-trout.org.

New research project aims to help tackle pollution in Welsh rivers

The worrying increase in the pollution of rivers in Wales has led to the launch of a three-year scientific monitoring programme by Salmon & Trout Conservation Cymru (S&TC Cymru), which aims to assess the health of our valuable freshwater environments.

The study in Wales follows on from the existing Riverfly Census on 12 rivers in England over the past two years, which has already identified that many of the country's rivers and chalkstreams are suffering.

Richard Garner Williams, S&TC's National Officer for Wales, explains the science:

"Last autumn saw the start of our innovative Riverfly Census monitoring programme in Wales. This highly informative method of analysis aims to assess the health of our rivers through monitoring the strength and diversity of freshwater invertebrate communities. The loss of the aquatic stages in the lifecycles of invertebrates such as caddisflies and mayflies causes major disruption to the delicate balance of the aquatic food chain, with fish, mammals and bird populations suffering as a result.

Significantly, different invertebrate species have unique tolerances to specific types of pollution. Therefore, the presence or absence of a species provides an excellent indicator of the underlying ecological condition of our rivers and accurately pin-points potential pollution sources."

The threat to our rivers has moved from industrial pollution to a range of more subtle but equally damaging impacts, including the pollution from some forms of intensive agricultural production, which can be toxic to river insects – a vital part of the food chain within rivers.

The three rivers included in the Riverfly Census in Wales - the Clwyd, Usk and Cleddau Ddu or Eastern Cleddau - represent a good geographical spread across the country. Over the next few years we will be able to gather crucial evidence about the condition of these rivers and, when problems are identified, to develop workable solutions to reverse the decline in biodiversity and water quality.

Richard Garner Williams said:

"The results from the 2016 autumn sampling have formed an important baseline for measuring the condition of these rivers in subsequent years. Early results on the Eastern Cleddau and, to a lesser extent the Clwyd, indicate that agricultural pollution may be taking its toll. In contrast, the early results on the River Usk are more promising, but there is never any room for complacency and we need more data over future years to provide an accurate picture."

Dr Janina Gray, Head of Science with S&TC said:

"Understanding why and to what extent riverfly numbers, such as blue-winged olives, are declining is the first step in the process of safeguarding the aquatic environment. We are using our results in England to help fuel real improvements on our rivers. For example, we have worked with the local Environment Agency on the Test and Itchen in Hampshire to agree bespoke targets for mayfly species to drive improvements. We now want to be just as forensic in Welsh rivers!"

Richard Garner Williams continued:

"Pollution incidents are occurring far too frequently in Wales, especially in the milkfields of West Wales, where waste products from intensive dairy production are having a devastating impact on the freshwater environment. This is a major concern for all of us who care about our rivers and aquatic wildlife. However, the results from our Riverfly Census will help to provide the scientific evidence needed to identify specific problems and to develop workable solutions in order to guide meaningful restoration and avoid further incidents. We look forward to working with Natural Resources Wales, the Welsh Government and other stakeholders to ensure this happens for the benefit of our rivers and the wild fish of Wales, both now and in the future."

For further information the Riverfly Census in Wales, please contact: Richard Garner Williams on: wales@salmon-trout.org.