Nick Measham, CEO, Salmon & Trout Conservation,
I am proud to take on the responsibility for leading Salmon & Trout Conservation. Though I am a relatively recent recruit – I joined S&TC part time five years ago to help manage a project on the Upper Itchen and developed the Riverfly Census – I have had a life-long love of rivers and am fascinated about every aspect of them.
I come from West Bromwich, born at a time when my local river, the Tame, was one of the most polluted in Europe. My earliest memories are of playing in small streams, catching bullheads, loach, sticklebacks and crayfish. I came to angling through this love of water – no one else in the family fished – and have always believed that fishing is a dividend, albeit a big one, of our stewardship of wild fish and their habitats. You can’t fish too happily without catching fish (though I often seem to…).
My central objective for S&TC may seem prosaic but it is to continue to grow the work we do as the only independent voice campaigning for wild fish and their habitats. We will continue to take no Government money which too often leads to solutions which do not appear to put the environment first and which would conflict with our need to hold Government and its agencies to account.
We have been and will remain a small team with a reputation for getting things done.
We achieve what we do at a national scale by: being ruthlessly focused on a small range of critical issues and; working in close partnership/collaboration with many others.
This focus and partnership working will continue to form the framework for all we do in the short run and over the longer term too.
My immediate priority in this difficult year is to find the resources to increase the impact of our projects across our three current work streams (and protect our wonderful dedicated talented team). The Covid-19 impact is placing huge stress on funding, but the environmental demand has never been greater.
Our current projects are:
- SmartRivers which builds on the Riverfly census to train volunteers to use invert samples to nail the water quality threats (pesticides, phosphate, sediment and sewage) threatening wild fish populationsWe are growing a SmartRivers “franchise” network across England, Wales and Scotland which will provide our water quality database with evidence of the pollutants stressing our rivers, their dependent wild fish and water life.
- Salmon Farm Reform to prevent open-net salmon farming harming salmon and sea trout. In-shore open-net salmon farming kills wild salmon, sea trout, other fish and crustaceans. Lethality results from sea lice infestation, escaped farmed fish breeding with wild ones, and coastal waters being seriously polluted by fish waste; and also, ironically, by the quantity of chemicals needed to try to keep cage-farmed fish parasite and disease free. We champion effective regulation to control sea-lice parasites and eliminate escapes; we also seek relocation of open cage farms away from sensitive salmon and sea trout migration routes.
- Water Action using evidence from the Riverfly Census and other science to drive policy reform on water quality (we are leading the charge on forcing action on pesticides in water and general agricultural abuse of water) and on abstraction for example.
Longer-term, the main challenges are to put in place effective regulation of agriculture and aquaculture to protect our wild fish and their habitats.
Our river fly evidence from the Riverfly Census and SmartRivers shows agricultural pollution rather than the industrial pollution of my childhood, to be the main threat to wild fish. We must ensure that farming practices stop damaging our rivers. We already have the regulation in place to do this, regulation which has been accepted by the NFU and other farmers’ bodies. This requires the Environment Agency and its sisters in Wales and Scotland to be given the resources and the will to stop bad farming practice through education and enforcement. It seems so straight forward but, somehow or other the UK’s Governments fail to deliver.
The second main challenge is aquaculture: simply put open-cage salmon farming in inshore marine locations is incompatible with wild fish. We are fighting hard to get the Scottish Government to regulate salmon farming to protect wild fish from the lethal plumes of sea lice from farmed fish and from genetically devastating escapes.
Underlying these threats to our rivers and coastal waters, is the whole more food/cheaper ethos which has dominated food production for decades. Countering this will require more than anglers, and this raises campaigning issues which we are only now beginning to understand and resource. We are an organisation of some 6000 members. We must retain and expand this base - numbers count politically - and add sources of support both people and funds.
I cannot promise you immediate success, but I can offer you the commitment to try to counter the damage being done to our wild fish and their waters. I hope I can count on your support in the years ahead.