This week the River Teifi in Wales, which was once one of the premier salmon and sea trout rivers in the UK, was polluted with farm slurry and hundreds, possibly thousands, of fish have been killed. The impact on fish stocks is likely to be very severe for up to a decade, and thousands of both local and visiting anglers who bring money into the Welsh economy will have their sport destroyed.
Fish Legal, a membership association for angling clubs and fishery owners, is fighting more than 60 legal cases throughout the UK and is investigating the Teifi pollution case to see if it can make a compensation claim for its member angling clubs and riparian owners who have been affected. However, many elderly anglers who have fished the river all their lives may not live to see it restored to its former glory. Thousands of anglers on internet forums have expressed their fury in the past two days about the pollution of this beautiful river.
This tragic incident is the latest in a rising tide of major pollutions from farms affecting rivers in England and Wales. Government figures show that farming is now the top cause of major pollution incidents and also the principal cause of the general malaise affecting the majority of rivers. The Angling Trust has repeatedly called for tougher regulation of farmers for more than five years, including earlier this month on BBC Countryfile, but governments in Westminster and Cardiff have chosen to take a light touch to regulation.
The Angling Trust is, coincidentally, this week responding to a consultation from Welsh Assembly Government about a proposal to define the whole of Wales as a Nitrate Vulnerable Zone, which would place greater restrictions on spreading slurry and other damaging farm practices, but further action is required to get the agricultural industry, which receives approximately £3 billion of taxpayers money each year, to stop polluting rivers. The Trust will be writing to the Welsh Assembly Government calling on it to take urgent action.
Mark Lloyd, Chief Executive of the Angling Trust and Fish Legal said: “Anglers have had enough of seeing our precious rivers destroyed due to a lack of care and attention by farmers who are receiving billions in subsidies each year from hard pressed taxpayers. Our organisations repeat our call to governments to get serious about farm pollution and to take tough regulatory action to ensure that watercourses are not polluted with slurry, pesticides, fertiliser and soil. It is their duty to protect fish and the host of other wildlife that relies on clean water and healthy habitats, which they are failing to deliver. We need a complete rethink of the way that farming is regulated, and we need it now.”