Meet the team: James Overington
An interview with James, Water Policy Officer
07 April 2022
James joined us at the end of 2021 as a Water Policy Officer. We asked James about his role and how he believes he can have a positive influence in wild fish conservation.
What was your background prior to joining S&TC?
Previously, I formed part of an advisory team for ThamesWey Ltd, a sustainable development firm. In this role I provided green energy advice to homeowners as part of a government financed project to tackle fuel poverty and decarbonise domestic housing. Prior to this, I carried out conservation work on behalf of several environmental organisations including ZSL, The Wildlife Trust, RSPB and Global Vision International. My academic background is in Ecology, Politics and Law.
Tell us about your new role?
Being proactive in identifying and challenging current and future threats to the freshwater environment is central to my role. This is achieved by closely monitoring the evolving state of government decision making and related developments unfolding in the private sector. It also involves scrutinising environmental legislation and bodies to help identify areas of protection that are failing. I also support the growth of SmartRivers as we employ our findings to engage with stakeholders and drive regional action.
How do you think your role can have a positive influence for wild fish and their conservation?
Wild fish are exposed to increasing pressures, so too are their habitats which continues to drive a decline in species populations. My role will focus on trying to alleviate these pressures at a local, regional, and national scale. Working collaboratively with interest groups, we will spotlight illegal activity, lobby for national water policy change and champion wild fish protection. Wild fish, particularly salmon and trout, thrive in clean, flowing water. Consequently, my current focus is on tackling pressures from over-abstraction and pollution.
Your favourite freshwater species, and why?
Water crowfoot (Ranunculus spp) - an abundant macrophyte that forms long floating matts across river channels - and its impact on rivers both structurally and ecologically. Water crowfoot is an autogenic engineer as it alters the environment around it by modifying water flow and promoting fine sediment deposition. This provides conditions for other species of macrophyte to become established, creating a more complex river habitat. In turn, this increases the abundance and diversity of invertebrates. Wild fish greatly benefit from the shelter water crowfoot provides as well as the food it can support, particularly juvenile salmon. Poor management and pollution are the greatest threats to this species.
Our environment, particularly our freshwater environment, is facing unprecedented pressure. For me, being complicit is no longer an option. This is a view collectively shared by the devoted team at S&TC, an evolving organisation that has the ingenuity and fortitude to address these tough issues head-on. With over 115 years of campaigning heritage and a passionate supporter base, S&TC can provide its staff with a secure platform from which to uncompromisingly defend wild fish and their watery environment. SmartRivers – and its capavity to inform and underpin policy work - was of notable interest to me from a citizen science point of view, enabling bottom-up decision making (which is important to me!).