The Angling Trust today called for long overdue plans to be put in place to deal with urban run-off after two separate pollution events at the weekend killed thousands of fish, including barbel, chub, dace, roach, trout, bream and perch on tributaries of the River Trent. The Trust and its member clubs have been calling for action to deal with this problem for more than a year after catch returns had dwindled on the River Tame in Warwickshire. Anglers had suggested that this was as a result of repeat pollution from urban run-off. Very heavy rain at the weekend over Nuneaton and Birmingham is thought to have caused oil, storm sewage and other contaminants to be flushed into the rivers Anker and Tame, causing the major fish kills.

The Trust’s environmental campaigns manager Mark Owen visited the rivers yesterday and was appalled by the level of fish mortality, saying: “local angling clubs told us recently that urban run-off has been damaging fish stocks on the Tame and matches have become unfishable. For this tragedy to happen on the river Anker as well, demonstrates how important it is that plans are put in place to stop this happening again. The Angling Trust will be campaigning for action and we have already set up meetings with the Environment Agency.”

Kevin Stilgoe, secretary of Kingsbury & District Angling Club who fish the Tame said “We have been providing the Environment Agency with information showing declining fish stocks on the Tame for some time. This is not an isolated incident. I have been fishing the Tame for 20 years and it is tragic to see the reversal of previous 2 years’ good work. The West Midlands has been one of the hardest hit areas in this economic recession, now we see our fish stocks decimated. It is time for government and the polluters to take responsibility for and pay for their actions”

Chief executive Mark Lloyd said: “climate change is likely to cause more heavy rainstorms and we must take action in all our urban areas to store and treat surface run off which not only causes flooding in people’s homes, but also pollution in our rivers. Normally the effects are invisible, causing a slow decline in fish stocks, but on this occasion it has caused a major fish kill. We will be demanding that Ministers implement the action plan we set out nearly three years ago for dealing with this issue as part of the wide-ranging Blueprint for Water.”

Guy Linley-Adams, solicitor at Fish Legal, the legal arm of the Angling Trust, said: “We will be looking into whether any legal action can be taken on behalf of Fish Legal member clubs who have been affected to secure compensation on their behalf and to force works to be undertaken to prevent it happening again. We will also want to see real preventative action from the Agency in pursuance of its statutory duty to ‘maintain, improve and develop fisheries’ given to it by the Environment Act 1995. It can’t fulfil its fisheries duty by merely responding to these types of incidents with a wringing of hands or by blaming the weather.”

The Blueprint for Water, published in November 2006, by a coalition of angling, fisheries and environmental groups, called for the following action to be taken on urban run off:

“Construct modern drainage systems that prevent pollution entering rivers from buildings and roads”
By 2007, DCLG must reform Planning Guidance and Building Regulations to make Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDS) the standard method of disposing of surface water.
By 2009, DCLG and Defra must decide who is legally responsible for the construction and maintenance of SUDS.
 In the 2009 price review, Ofwat should encourage water companies to provide grants and educational material to help remove sources of diffuse urban pollutants like heavy metals, solvents and fats.
By 2012, local authorities, the Highways Agency and water companies should launch a major programme installing SUDS in built-up areas where surface run-off causes pollution.”
To date, the DCLG reform of the Planning Guidance is awaited, no decision has been made on the legal responsibility for SUDS, OFWAT offered no encouragement to water companies to support the control of diffuse urban pollutants and there is no sign of a programme of work to install widespread SUDS.

The Angling Trust will be pressing for:

inclusion of new measures and the clarification of responsibilities for SUDS in the forthcoming Flood and Water Management Bill announced yesterday
creation of Water Protection Zones in urban areas as part of delivery of the Water Framework Directive
The country’s 3.5 million anglers will be watching to see if the Government will get a grip of this widespread issue to prevent this tragedy being repeated on these rivers, and on urban rivers throughout the country.

Click on – the UK’s No1 online match fishing club – to win a trip to the world match fishing championships, and save money off tackle