River invertebrates could hold the key to abysmal state of rivers in Wales

Leading fisheries charity, Salmon & Trout Conservation UK (S&TC UK) has brought forward its programme of river invertebrate monitoring on three rivers in Wales to support efforts by Natural Resource Wales, who are investigating the unprecedented threats facing rivers and salmon stocks in Wales.

Shockingly, a recent report identifies that 61 per cent of Wales’ water bodies do not meet ‘Good Ecological Status’ as required under the Water Framework Directive (WFD).

Earlier this year, S&TC UK’s Riverfly Census in England, revealed that many rivers and chalkstreams across the country were in a poor state because of pollution caused by human pressure, ranging from sewage treatment works, septic tanks and agricultural run-off to abstraction and degraded river habitats.   The charity is now planning to launch the Riverfly Census on three rivers in Wales this autumn in order to help determine the level of threats facing Welsh rivers and streams not just for salmon fry but other important aquatic species too.

The S&TC Riverfly Census provides a very detailed microscopic picture down to species level.

Helen Jobson, national officer for S&TC Cymru explains, “These tiny riverflies and other invertebrates are excellent indicators of the health of our 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 in identifying why our fish, rivers and aquatic wildlife are under such stress and help build up a picture of what is actually happening on rivers such as the Usk, Clwyd and Eastern Cleddau.”

Richard Garner Williams, Chair of S&TC Cymru said, “The financial independence of S&TC allows us, uniquely, to comment without fear or favour upon the efforts made by Welsh Government, its agencies and other organisations in identifying and resolving the issues affecting the freshwater environment.  We are keen to push the importance of healthy Welsh rivers and fisheries higher up the political agenda.”

Paul Knight, Chief Executive of S&TC UK, said, “NRW’s latest report on the very low numbers of salmon fry in Wales this year is very concerning and could be an indication of more serious underlying problems.  No doubt the amount of rain we suffered last winter was a major factor but so too is the number of adult fish returning to the rivers to spawn. Other stresses such as sediment and phosphate pollution and their impact on river invertebrates are a good indicator of the problems facing these rivers and we  look forward to working with our Welsh partners to help identify these underlying causes.”