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Action for positive change on Welsh river pollution

Written By: Morag Walker MCIPR
On Date: 16/4/2018

Troubling reports over the Easter weekend of a significant fish kill on Nant Cae Person, an important sea trout spawning tributary of the Conwy and the closure of Traeth Dolau in New Quay, Pembrokeshire, both as a consequence of the mismanagement of farmyard slurry, saw a packed seminar at the Royal Welsh Showground agree that a much greater commitment towards the enforcement of guidelines and regulations by Welsh Government is required if we are to protect our precious rivers, streams and aquatic wildlife from further degradation.

The well attended seminar, organised by wild fish charity Salmon & Trout Conservation Cymru (S&TC Cymru), brought together leading conservation, policy and farming organisations in Wales in an effort to reach a consensus on how best to reverse the increasing numbers of pollution incidents affecting the freshwater environment.

The principal focus of the seminar was the impact intensive agricultural practices are having on our streams and rivers, making them uninhabitable for fish and invertebrates alike, largely as a consequence of the spreading on the land of excessive amounts of farmyard slurry and poultry litter.

Paul Knight, Chief Executive of Salmon & Trout Conservation provided the key address at the event and said, ““The high attendance and intense debate at the seminar showed how passionately people care about the health of the rivers of Wales and how much work is still to be done if we are to restore these precariously fragile environments for the benefit of present and future generations.”

He added, “While we agree with the call from the landowning representatives that stakeholders should work in collaboration to resolve these matters, we must also keep in mind that the connectivity of rivers means that one irresponsible act can have profound and far reaching effects on the myriad species that exist in and around our wonderful rivers. We therefore believe that a strong regulatory programme needs to underpin river restoration, so that the diligence of the majority is not destroyed by the thoughtlessness of the few.”

Richard Garner Williams, National Officer for S&TC Cymru, adds further insight on the outcome of the seminar and says, “There was also a call at the seminar for the adoption of a zero tolerance attitude towards the transfer of agricultural by-products into the freshwater environment. We are facing increasing legislation on air quality and S&TC believe that the same urgency for protection should be given to our wild waters. A focus on solutions has to be the way forward, but the acknowledgment and shouldering of responsibilities by those closest to the problem will be key to finding those solutions.”

The problems of river pollution caused by farm related incidents was widely acknowledged at the seminar. It was also agreed that this situation has to change and that there is an ideal opportunity to do so on the back of Brexit and the replacement of the CAP.

There was, however, division amongst the delegates on the best way forward between those that were enthusiastic about driving change through collaboration and partnership and the alternative view that the only way forward to arrest the current decline in freshwater biodiversity was through increased regulatory measures.

Richard Garner Williams explains S&TC Cymru’s view, “No-one wants an over-regulated world and guidelines are already in place which, in a perfect world, should be sufficient. There are, however, a stubborn and selfish minority who choose to ignore these guidelines without a care for the consequences, to the environment or the wider interests of the agricultural sector. Those who show such scant regard for these guidelines are bringing regulation upon themselves.”

Richard Garner Williams concluded, “It is appalling that many of our rivers are under as much threat from human activity as they were at the height of the Industrial Revolution. The consequences of intensive agriculture affects some 180 individual waterbodies in Wales and the continuing reports of pollution incidents demand an urgent and meaningful response. Restoring the health of our rivers in to their former glory is paramount and I felt that, for the first time, we arrived at a general consensus that to do nothing is no longer an option. Having regulators, conservationists and farming representatives in one room to dig deeper into some of the challenges arising from land management and identifying and discussing workable and immediate solutions was a very positive and encouraging sign.”

S&TC Cymru are grateful to the following for their enthusiastic participation and contribution towards the success of the day – Steve Griffiths, BASC Wales; Dr Stephen Marsh-Smith, Afonydd Cymru; Sue Evans, GWCT Cymru; Rachel Lewis-Davies, NFU Cymru; Zoe Henderson, Natural Resources Wales board member; Clare Dinham, Buglife Cymru; Pete Gough, NRW Principal Fisheries Adviser; Tony Bostock, Severn Rivers Trust and S&TC Trustee.


For more information on this press release, please contact: Morag Walker on 07736 124097 or email:

Notes to editors
Salmon & Trout Conservation (S&TC) 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. S&TC is the UK’s leading campaigning wild fish charity. We work to increase awareness of the growing need to protect our wild fish stocks and the rivers, lakes and oceans upon which they depend, in the face of issues such as pollution, over abstraction and insensitive salmon farming. Our aim is to achieve better protection for fish, aquatic wildlife and the places where they live for future generations to enjoy.

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