Fisheries charity takes on the mantle of protecting rivers in Wales

Rivers and streams across Wales are the life-blood of the country for both people and wildlife

Rivers and streams across Wales are the life-blood of the country for both people and wildlife. But these once pristine rivers are facing a range of ecological threats, which if not reduced could render many Welsh rivers unfit for the wild fish and other aquatic wildlife that depend on clean freshwaters to survive.

To help highlight the current plight of Wales' freshwaters, Helen Jobson, has recently joined Salmon & Trout Conservation Cymru (S&TC Cymru), as its Wales Officer. In her new role, Helen will be spearheading a campaign to bring the poor health of our rivers and their fish to the attention of government, regulatory bodies and the wider public alike.

Helen said, "Although some of the worst pollution problems in Wales caused by industrialisation have been tackled, we are now facing more subtle impacts on our rivers, lakes and wetlands. These sources of pollution range from sewage treatment works, septic tanks, and agricultural run-off to abstraction and degraded river habitats. These are having a devastating effect on the health of many of our precious freshwaters. A recent report shows that 61% of Wales' water bodies do not meet 'Good Ecological Status' as required under the European Union's Water Framework Directive (WFD). This is clearly not acceptable."

Salmon & Trout Conservation Cymru (S&TC Cymru) is the only fisheries charity that openly campaigns for the protection and restoration of UK's rivers, salmonid fish stocks and all other water dependent species, and is promoting a holistic, science-led approach to freshwater ecology.

With only 39% of all water bodies in Wales currently achieving good or better overall status there is much work to be done. However S&TC Cymru is uniquely placed to work in partnership with Welsh Government, its agencies and other organisations to identify the key problems, generate solutions and push the importance of healthy Welsh rivers and fisheries higher up the political agenda.

One of the projects that Helen is looking to establish in Wales is S&TC's Riverfly Census. She said, "In England this work using riverflies has provided a very detailed microscopic picture down to species level and the data is very revealing. These tiny riverflies and other invertebrates are excellent indicators of any underlying ecological condition in rivers as well as forming a crucial link in the aquatic food chain. Their loss is therefore of huge concern. By carrying out the Riverfly Census in Wales we could take the first steps to identifying specifically why our rivers are under stress."

As an example, Helen cites that even rivers like the Eastern & Western Cleddau in Pembrokeshire, which have very high protection status, are struggling. "Despite their special conservation status fish stocks in these rivers are below what could be expected. This indicates that there are underlying problems and impacts that need investigating. There are many other rivers in Wales that are telling the same story and our aim is to gather robust data through our Census in order to influence and identify practical solutions."

Paul Knight, Chief Executive of Salmon & Trout Conservation UK, is delighted that Helen is joining the S&TC team as Wales Officer, and said, "Helen has fantastic credentials, having worked for organisations such as Afonydd Cymru, the Celtic Rivers Trust and English Nature. She has an impressive record of developing and delivering environmental /aquatic improvement projects and her experience will be invaluable in helping to securing a healthy future for our river environments in Wales."

Richard Garner Williams, a trustee of S&TC UK and Chairman of S&TC Cymru also welcomed the appointment of a dedicated officer for Wales saying, "Helen's appointment should leave no one in any doubt about S&TC Cymru's mission to champion the future of the rivers and fish of Wales. Despite appearances, many of our rivers are under as great a threat from human activity as they were at the height of the Industrial Revolution. Helen's knowledge and experience makes her the ideal person to lead S&TC's campaign to challenge failures by both statutory and corporate organisations alike to respect and protect the wild fish of Wales."

Helen Jobson will be working with Natural Resources Wales, Afonydd Cymru, the Welsh Government as well as farming and other organisations in an effort to reverse many of the woes currently facing our precious rivers and aquatic wildlife. She will also run profile and fund-raising events to support new projects, including the Wild Fish of Wales Initiative and the innovative Riverfly Census that is being initiated by Salmon & Trout Conservation Cymru on a range of priority rivers across the country.