SATURDAYS see the good people at The Angling Trust, the single organisation to represent all game, coarse and sea anglers and angling in this country, take over our blog.
Angling Trust chief executive, Mark Lloyd brings you this week’s brief blog as he is currently on holiday.
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HIGHLY TOXIC CHEMICAL KILLS RIVER FISH FOOD
THIS week we got grim reports of a pollution incident on the upper River Kennet.
Volunteers carrying out a fly life survey as part of the Action for the River Kennet campaign noticed with horror that they were not catching any invertebrates. At all. They had all been wiped out, for much of a 15 km stretch downstream from Marlborough to Hungerford.
As yet fish populations remain unscathed but there are concerns that there may be residual effects that are still to come. Much of this stretch of famous chalk river, renowned for its trout fishing, but also an important coarse fishery, is situated within a SSSI.
All fish species rely very heavily on river invertebrates for food, as do birds such as wagtails, sand martins, swifts, swallows and dippers. The birds can fly off to another river to feed, but the fish will now face starvation until the insect populations can be restored.
The Environment Agency has identified the pollutant as chlorpyrifos, an organophosphate that is highly toxic to insect life. The source is as yet unknown but it entered the river by passing through the Marlborough Sewage Treatment Works.
Chlorpyrifos is used on lawns and golf courses and to tackle insects on crops and some soft fruits. It is the same pollutant that wiped out a large section of the River Wey in 2003 and led to a significant fish kill on the Sussex Ouse in 2001. It was banned in Singapore in 2009 for use in termite control in soil and the United States phased out chlorpyrifos for use in buildings and residential homes and pre-construction sites from 2001 due to public health and environmental concerns.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has moved to limit the use of the chemical near salmon rivers because of possible damage to fish and has been petitioned to introduce a total ban following reports that it can cause damage to human health.
I remember dealing with the aftermath of the pollution on the River Ouse, where the ACA (now called Fish Legal) managed to secure compensation of £50,000 for a group of clubs. The chemical had been at such high concentrations that it had led to a shutdown of the immune system in fish, which caused their flesh to rot and fall away from the bones while they were swimming round. There is clearly a strong case for banning chemicals like this that can cause such massive environmental destruction.
There are also important lessons to be learnt from this incident: first, volunteer monitoring is a really important tool to get early notice of pollution incidents, which helps the authorities take swifter action to mitigate the impact and hopefully track down the offender.
Second, it’s really important that angling clubs are members of Fish Legal, as they are in this case, so that our legal team can take action against the offender to recover compensation which can help restore the river to good health over the coming years.
If anyone has any information that might lead to identifying the person or company responsible for this pollution, please contact us on 01568 620447 during office hours, or call the Environment Agency on 0800 80 70 60.
Finally, our work fighting pollution and other damage to fisheries is heavily subsidised by our individual members’ subscriptions. To join the Angling Trust call 0844 7700616 or go to www.anglingtrust.net
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