In response to Tuesday’s report from the Environment Agency (EA) regarding the ecological status of water bodies in England and Wales, WWF and the Angling Trust have launched a joint campaign to restore and conserve a number of rivers in the UK that are under threat from pollution, over-abstraction and habitat damage.
As part of the HSBC Climate Partnership, WWF and the Angling Trust will implement a total of eight campaigns in as many months that call for clear and immediate action on specific local problems to restore and conserve the biodiversity and fisheries of these rivers. These local campaigns will also be used as case studies nationally to highlight the widespread nature of threats to our rivers.
The first of these campaigns will focus on the River Tame and middle Trent catchment. Parts of the Trent have been identified as being amongst the lowest quality rivers in Europe, according to the EA report. The campaign was launched on Tuesday, with coverage on BBC Breakfast News: Click here to watch the interview in full <http://emarketing.blue-leaf.co.uk/t/r/l/dktiti/fdklyydd/r>
The Angling Trust had already begun research on this river after identifying that urban run off was a key factor in its degradation. Then in June 2009, more than 1000 fish were killed as a result of increased urban run off following some severe storms over Birmingham. With climate change scenarios predicting a more unstable weather pattern, which will see an increase in storms and flooding, it is essential for the security of the River Trent, its wildlife, the local communities and the angling clubs that the issue of urban runoff is addressed by the local councils immediately.
Mark Owen, Environmental Campaigns Manager at the Angling Trust, who will be leading on these campaigns, said: “Our focus for this catchment is to ensure that we have an effective Sustainable Urban Drainage System (SUDS) in place to reduce the risk of urban run off in the face of a changing and unstable climate. Pollution from urban run-off, such as Birmingham, is a major problem in many English rivers. However, if pollution is properly managed, then we can create attractive and useful havens for wildlife and angling which will reduce the speed and quantity of run-off from the vast paved areas in urban areas.”
The Angling Trust and WWF will focus on bringing together the two councils which suffer the brunt of the pollution, Tamworth and Burton, with Birmingham City Council to develop solutions to the issue, focusing on an improved SUDs policy in Birmingham. This plan will also need to take into account the potential increases in population, due to the planned development of half a million more homes by 2026 in the region, which will add additional urban run-off and sewage. Much can be achieved by improving the design of new developments to allow surface water to soak away and be stored in small scale storage areas.
WWF’s Policy and Programme Manager for Freshwater, Rose Timlett, commented on the EA report; “The confirmation that over 74% of our rivers currently fall below the ‘good ecological status’ line, is a wake-up call to the government that the time to act is now. These rivers are our water supply and they are the lifeblood for an abundance of wildlife. Anglers are the eyes and ears of our waterways and the Angling Trust’s involvement in the protection of UK Rivers is therefore imperative to securing a healthy future for them”.
The joint partnership between the Angling Trust and WWF, supported by HSBC, will campaign to get local councils, the government, the Environment Agency and farmers to make the necessary changes to secure the health of our waterways.
The eight campaigns will focus on keys issues such as over abstraction, urban and agricultural diffuse pollution, barriers to fish migration and hydropower installations.
Anglers can get involved by adopting a river and writing a letter to their MPs from the Our Rivers website (www.ourrivers.org) encouraging the Environment Agency to show much greater ambition in the River Basin Management Plans. There will also be various community events organised by local angling groups for local residents and anglers to get hands on in the conservation of their local rivers such as clean-up days.
Mark Lloyd, Chief Executive of the Angling Trust said: “the Angling Trust will be writing to all its member clubs and riparian owners asking for suitable candidate campaigns. Anglers have, for generations, done more than any other group to campaign for and implement improvements to our rivers. We know what the problems are and our great numbers can help persuade politicians that action should be taken to address them. By teaming up with the largest environmental charities in the country, we have been able to broaden the base of support for implementing these solutions.”