SHEEP DIP – The Silent Killer

Fisheries and Angling Conservation Trust Ltd (FACT) has written
to David Miliband Secretary of State for the Environment,
Food and Rural Affairs

S&TA demands immediate ban of lethal treatment as aquatic pollution
reaches highest ever levels
Embargoed until Monday, July 18 2005
The future of flyfishing in vast parts of the country is at risk from the use of synthetic
pyrethroid sheep dips. The health concerning organophosphate (op) dips led to the
approval and use of what was billed as the safe alternative: synthetic pyrethroid (sp)
dips. Both kill off sheep parasites such as sheep scab, blowfly, ticks and lice. But,
cypermethrin, the active ingredient in sp dips, is up to 1000 times more toxic to
aquatic life than diazinon, the basis of the op dips.

The Salmon & Trout Association (S&TA) has compiled damning evidence from the
Environment Agency (EA) showing that even very small quantities of cypermethrin can
wipe out invertebrates for up to 10 km of river. It routinely enters watercourses after
sheep dipping operations.

It is particularly threatening for Wales, the Southwest, Northumbria, Cumbria, Kent,
West Yorkshire and Devon – areas of intensive sheep farming and fleece processing.
With no flylife there is no flyfishing. Abundant flylife populations are vital to ensure
the survival of the country’s aquatic ecosystems, which bring in over £4 billion pounds
into rural and remote communities through the angling.

Incidents of massive invertebrate deaths from SPs were first reported in April 1996,
with a wipeout of invertebrates on 25 km of the river Earn in Scotland and, following
the increasing number of pollution incidents and the documented evidence of the
extreme toxicity of cypermethrin, S&TA first called for the withdrawal of synthetic
pyrethroid dips in October 1997.

Since August 2003, there have been 57 sheep dip-related incidents in Wales alone,
affecting 29 catchments. Most of these incidents have arisen from apparent routine use
of cypermethrin. Detailed follow-up investigations over the last few years in these
affected areas have shown severe declines in invertebrate biology caused by the
contamination by sheep dip chemicals.

“Cypermethrin sheep dip pollution is devastating flylife populations across wide areas
of the country,” Paul Knight, S&TA Director, states. “Although the government has
brought in a number of measures for the use and administration of sheep dip, even
when these best-practice guidelines are adhered to our evidence proves sheep dip
pollution still occurs. Because the pollution is so toxic to invertebrates any pollution is
unacceptable. We need to ban cypermethrin sheep dip now.”

There are very many ways in which the chemical cypermethrin can find its way into
watercourses, even if best practice procedures are followed, Knight points out.
Following dipping, residues of the chemical remain in the sheep’s fleece and may be
lost to the environment through drips, sheep walking through watercourses, loss of wool,
and in processing of fleeces. A further potential source arises from the disposal of used
sheep dip. Sufficient resources to monitor the aquatic environment for sheep dip and
all forms of pollution are necessary.

“The stark fact is that pollution is unavoidable due to the ‘sponge’ effect of wool. The
chemical remains in the fleece until either it is washed directly off the animal, or the
wool is processed. There must be no environmental impact from sheep dips, and the
only way to achieve that is to ban their use, and support for farmers in the use of

Although cypermethrin is a highly efficient pesticide, nonetheless there are effective
alternatives to sheep dip that are being used almost universally by sheep farmers in
certain parts of the country such as Buckinghamshire. “We are aware that there have
to be solutions to this issue that satisfy everyone involved, including farmers,” Paul
Knight says. “Given the dangerous toxicity of SPs and the practical inability of
controlling their after-effects, the S&TA is now leading a vigorous lobby for their total,
and immediate, ban.”

Notes to editor:
1. The information contained within this release is based on documents from the
Environment Agency. Copies of the documents are available from the S&TA upon

2. The recent Water Framework Directive characterisation identified 47% of the
rivers in Wales to be at risk from pesticide and sheep dip pollution. A map showing
these pressures on rivers in England and Wales is available by copying and pasting
the following link into an internet browser: http://www.environmentagency.

3. Salmon & Trout Association was established in 1903, S&TA is an international
organisation representing the interests of game anglers, fishery owners and managers
and affiliated trades. We have 15,000 individual members and 85,000 club
members, with offices in London and Loch Leven (Scotland), and an affiliated office in
Brussels through the European Anglers’ Alliance (EAA). We lobby Government
departments and agencies on all relevant matters affecting game anglers and
fisheries, and take a lead consultative role whenever major fisheries issues are
discussed at national or international level. Our work is increasingly concerned with
environmental issues affecting the ecosystems that support the habitat and species
upon which our sport depends.

Salmon & Trout Association, Fishmongers’ Hall, London EC4R 9EL
Tel. 0207 283 5838 email: web.
Contact: Carmel Jorgensen