WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE – BUT FOR HOW LONG?

Salmon & Trout Association and the Atlantic Salmon Trust challenge the Parties to deliver on key asks for the aquatic environment

Salmon & Trout Association and the Atlantic Salmon Trust challenge the Parties to deliver on key asks for the aquatic environment

Why do all the main political parties pay so little attention to water and the aquatic environment? Simply because they are taken for granted. But continuing with the piecemeal, short-sighted and politically expedient management of the past in such vital areas as abstraction, flood risk management and pollution could cause irreparable damage to our rivers and streams, say the Salmon & Trout Association (S&TA) and the Atlantic Salmon Trust (AST).

‘Dealing with these problems will require co-ordinated action. We believe that it is essential for there to be a single body responsible for regulating all activities that affect the aquatic environment and capable of acting on a catchment scale’ says Paul Knight, S&TA CEO, ‘Whoever forms the new Government must move away from a “silo” and piecemeal approach to management, and adopt integrated policies for the environment, including fisheries, for water resources and for flood risk management. There must be a thorough overview of what is required in each catchment and how it can be delivered most efficiently within what we suspect will be dwindling resources. This will require a culture change, using partnerships with third party organisations such as rivers trusts, wildlife trusts, fisheries associations, angling clubs,’

‘Salmon and sea trout need healthy, unobstructed rivers with abundant, clean water ‘ says Ivor Llewelyn of the Atlantic Salmon Trust. ‘So do many other forms of wildlife – and people. If we are to improve the aquatic environment in our crowded island, we all need to work together, with the Government giving a clear lead.’

Steps that need to be taken include:

  • Changes to farming practice to protect rivers and streams from soil run-off, agri-chemicals and other pollutants, using modifications to CAP and agri-environment schemes to compensate farmers for protecting fragile river systems. Food security is important, but must not be at the expense of the environment;
  • Measures to reduce other forms of pollution, such as the removal of phosphates from washing powders, diverting road run-off and urban storm drainage;
  • Reduction in water abstraction by encouraging more efficient use of water – allowing water companies to invest in modern infrastructure and beneficial environmental schemes such as ScamP, and promoting water efficiency within households
  • A strategic approach to the development of hydro and tidal power. S&TA and AST support the development of renewable energy if it is environmentally sustainable. In-river hydro schemes must be assessed both for their specific impact and for their cumulative impact, with other hydro schemes, on a catchment as a whole. If they are likely to lead to harm to fish stocks or other aspects of the environment, they should not go ahead. While we support the development of tidal energy schemes, we do not think that a Severn barrage is a viable option, given its prohibitive cost and impact on the environment.
  • Restoration of wetlands and flood plains to improve the retention of rainfall and flow regimes, and so reduce flooding from unnatural spates and ecologically dangerous low flows in drought conditions – especially important in upland areas, where drainage and overgrazing has destroyed the natural sponge effect of many catchments.
  • Developing ways of carrying out the work identified in river basin management plans to improve the ecological status of rivers and streams.
  • Maintaining an adequate scientific programme of research. We of course appreciate the need to reduce Government spending, but believe that continuing research is essential if fisheries and environmental policy is to be properly based on science.