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HYDROPOWER: MORE DAMAGING FOR COARSE FISH THAN SALMON
THIS week we had our Midlands Angling Trust forum meeting near the River Trent about the impact of hydropower on fisheries.
This was a very appropriate topic, following Fish Legal’s historic victory last year in getting an injunction to stop a major hydropower development at Sawley weir on the River Trent which would have destroyed the freehold fishing rights of one of our member clubs.
Not only would the screening of the turbines have blocked fishing access, the development would have seen so much water diverted into the turbines that the weirpool would have been lost as a prime angling venue.
The interest of many of the angling world’s great coarse angling clubs in this topic was so strong that about 50 anglers turned out on a freezing Thursday evening in a church hall in Long Eaton to hear about the next steps in our campaign to protect rivers from hydropower.
I think that far too often hydropower is seen as a problem only for game fishing interests. Everyone knows that salmon and sea trout migrate thousands of miles across the oceans and up their natal rivers to spawn. In fact I think that it is even more of a problem for coarse fish, and I’ll explain why.
Salmon and sea trout are designed to jump over obstacles. The picture above shows what they are capable of getting over.
You wouldn’t see a barbel or chub making the same leap, let alone a dace, roach, rudd, gudgeon or minnow. Yet all these fish need to migrate up and down rivers if they are to breed and grow into specimen sizes.
By putting barriers in their way, we stop them breeding and producing enough fish to keep the cormorants fed for the next year.
At our coarse fish conference last year, we heard about a study into barbel migration upriver in the spring to spawn. A small v-notched EA flow-gauging weir was enough to stop the barbel completing their journey if they didn’t find the right flows at the right time. This meant that several year classes would be completely absent.
By putting new turbines into rivers, and diverting flow out of rivers and into turbines, we are usually making these problems worse. Coupled with a boom in cormorant population numbers and a return of otters to many tributaries, this is very bad news for coarse fish stocks. These predators know only too well that fish are easily picked off if they have just come through a fish pass or through a turbine.
We need to stop hydropower destroying our fish stocks and our fishing. It’s a pointless initiative anyway that will do nothing to contribute to renewable energy targets. The only people involved are a few well-meaning, but badly-informed community groups and a bunch of greedy developers who just want to cash in on the generous feed-in tariffs offered by the government.
As you will be aware, the Angling Trust and Fish Legal have been campaigning and taking legal action over the past few years to stop damaging hydropower on our rivers. We have been jointly working with the Salmon & Trout Association on a group set up by the Environment Agency to review the Good Practice Guidelines for hydropower developers to follow.
The Agency’s own experts have confirmed that the current version is not fit for purpose. At last, after years of delay, there is a consultation about tightening up the standards to protect the water environment better.
This is our opportunity to change the guidelines for the better, which will protect our coarse and game fish stocks for generations to come. We need your support for this – the more responses they receive, the more likely it is that we will get better protection of our fish.
Please take a few minutes to respond to the consultation, following the advice on our web site HERE.
The consultation can be found HERE.
Please select “Consultation on river flow and water abstraction standards for hydropower” from the list of consultations and then follow the instructions about how to respond.
It will only take half an hour to do this, but it could change this important policy for generations to come.
If you’re not a member, then please join the Angling Trust and Fish Legal so that we can fight to protect fish and fishing.
www.anglingtrust.net or 01568 620447 during office hours. Do it now!
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