Passion for… A Cleaned Up Wye

John Bailey

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As we have written before, simply because the hot weather has receded that does not mean that all is well with the Wye, and that the protests over its horrendous treatment will subside. In fact, the opposite is happening. Our inbox is full of outraged mails on a daily basis, and two items have recently stood out.

One is a letter that has been widely circulated, from James Evans, Member of The Welsh Parliament for Brecon and Radnorshire. We have highlighted points from the letter that should interest us all…

“What was clear from Natural Resources Wales’s (NRW) report into phosphates was that further investigation was needed.” (How much investigation is still needed when so much work has already been done, and the visible evidence is incontrovertible?)

“Regarding the claims about poultry units being behind the pollution incidents along the Wye, I note NRW’s investigation found that the overall pattern of failures in the Wye did not support the argument that poultry units are the main reason for nutrient failures on the Wye.” (Does anyone with any knowledge of the present situation agree with this?)

“Welsh Conservatives believe that a holistic solution is needed to restore river beds, rather than adopting stringent phosphate targets.” (ie, another way of saying ‘we’ll kick the proverbial can along the road and do nothing’.)

“Welsh Conservatives feel that the failure to secure our long term food security will cost future generations dearly… which is why food self sufficiency should be prioritised.” (So, screw the environment and stuff the need for pure rivers. If supermarkets can sell chickens for a quid or two, everyone is happy in a collapsed world.)

The Wye & Usk Foundation recently called for a meeting of fifty Herefordshire farmers, and there seems to have been some acceptance of the poultry problem. Chair Kate Speke-Adams, WUF Head of Land Use, summed up the conclusions…
  • Research into technology to strip phosphates from manures.
  • No more phosphate applications to soils already reaching a critical threshold.
  • Investigation into supply chain schemes so that phosphates can can be exported from the (Wye) catchment to areas of the country whose soils are in deficit.
  • Expanding research to improve understanding of how our soils and nutrients are behaving.
WUF’s report ending by using phrases like this “takes time”, ”no quick, easy solution”, and “high levels of phosphorus will take decades to run down”.

And yet the report was written with a measure of bright optimism, a spin on events we fail to understand. Whilst we have a high regard for some in WUF, the basic argument of all this is that someone sometime will be paid by someone sometime to look into what is destroying our most iconic river… but we won’t do anything with much urgency because it’s probably too late anyway. Or perhaps it is more a case of ‘let’s be seen to be talking about this and with luck, the whole problem will go away’?

Just tell us please, are you happy with this? Because we are not, not by a long chalk. Can we all please decide on how we proceed from this point, and what action as a group we can all take to effect change NOW?
 

peterchilton

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It looks like none of these people can be trusted to take action unless it suits them. Interestingly I can't see how WUF and there Herefordshire Farmers can help with phosphate pollution from IPU's on the Ithon and more generally Powys.

Of course for the Barbelisers is the thought that all the phosphates deposited on the bottom is turned back into the water by the Barbel hunting for food, wouldn't happen if they were removed, wouldn't happen if the river was 'natural'.


 
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kirk

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Is that a suggestion that pollution in the Wye is the fault of barbel?

Surely the point is that if there wasn't an excess of phosphates in the river, due to human activity, then there wouldn't be a problem from the barbel having the temerity to do what comes naturally and feeding. That is assuming that barbel feeding actually does re activate the phosphates which are allegedly laying on the river bed - which I doubt.

I must have had 1 glass too many tonight.

Beam me up Scottie!
 
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yellowbelly

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I think he's suggesting it wouldn't happen if the phosphates were removed, but not sure, emotions run high on the Wye..but that's good
 

SJF

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James Evans is a farmer John. All you need to know.an
and a Tory one at that ( not that I know too many Left wing Farmers). Of course he doesn't want to spend money on anything green or environmental sounding. It is short-termism all the way.
 

peterchilton

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Is that a suggestion that pollution in the Wye is the fault of barbel?

Surely the point is that if there wasn't an excess of phosphates in the river, due to human activity, then there wouldn't be a problem from the barbel having the temerity to do what comes naturally and feeding. That is assuming that barbel feeding actually does re activate the phosphates which are allegedly laying on the river bed - which I doubt.

I must have had 1 glass too many tonight.

Beam me up Scottie!

What I clearly said was that "it wouldn't happen if they were removed", in terms of the re activation of historic Phosphates on the bed of the river. You will be telling me soon that Barbel don't eat salmon parr or dig up the salmon redds in the gravels.

Barbel are an illegal Invasive species in the Wye, they shouldn't be there. How come we have to remove signal crayfish, Mink and all those terrible plants, but not the Barbel?

Sadly the Natural Resources Wales and WUF are only 'Natural' when and where it suits them.
 

John Bailey

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I relish the comments that have ranged over the subject these last weeks, but refuse to engage with “peterchilton” and his latest assertion that barbel are somehow responsible for Wye phosphate levels.
 

kirk

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What I clearly said was that "it wouldn't happen if they were removed", in terms of the re activation of historic Phosphates on the bed of the river. You will be telling me soon that Barbel don't eat salmon parr or dig up the salmon redds in the gravels.

Barbel are an illegal Invasive species in the Wye, they shouldn't be there. How come we have to remove signal crayfish, Mink and all those terrible plants, but not the Barbel?

Sadly the Natural Resources Wales and WUF are only 'Natural' when and where it suits them.
The river is an ecosystem with predators and prey. Barbel will eat salmon eggs and so will many other fish including chub, grayling, trout and other non-invasive species.

So should we be chucking barbel, pike and grayling into the bushes. I thought we had moved on from these attitudes.

However, my main issue here is that humans are the cause of the phosphate problem so lets not blame fish, even if they are fish that you don't think they should be in the river. The fish can't do anything about the phosphates but we can.
 

Richardgw

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Irrespective to how they got there, we have to accept that barbel are in the in the Wye and that they are here to stay. That is unless the level of pollution gets so bad as to totally kill off ALL life in or on the river and the rate things are going this is a possibility. Indeed I think the process has started for all to see with the loss of the water crowfoot, the massive reduction in the number of swans and the algae green water just to name some of the obvious signs. And if this is happening above the surface just think what is happening below!

What we need to concentrate upon is stopping/reducing the amount of pollution being chucked into the river by the water companies breaking the law with their illegal releases of raw sewage and the amounts of slurry (of all types), fertilisers, pesticides, anaerobic digestate and top soil runoff all from poor and unsustainable farming practices. And this needs to be done now with a strong enforcement regime. No more procrastination though lengthy investigations which is just wasting money kicking things down the road. The alternative is the total collapse of the river ecosystem, which as I mentioned above is already starting.
 

peterchilton

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Agree that the phosphates are unnatural and their presence is the fault of human intervention, but the same can be said for the Barbel they are also the product of human intervention. As you say many fish eat the stray eggs of Salmon and Trout, but its only the Barbel that actively dig the redds out to get the eggs.
I don't think anyone wants the Barbel killed, chucked into the bushes as you say, but they could be returned from whence they came, often where their numbers are now declining.
 
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peterchilton

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I relish the comments that have ranged over the subject these last weeks, but refuse to engage with “peterchilton” and his latest assertion that barbel are somehow responsible for Wye phosphate levels.
tut do you often misquote people in this way?

I said

Of course for the Barbelisers is the thought that all the phosphates deposited on the bottom is turned back into the water by the Barbel hunting for food, wouldn't happen if they were removed, wouldn't happen if the river was 'natural'.

are you disputing that statement?

Lets make it clear - the extra Phosphate load that we have been testing for is real and produced mainly by Farmers, and Water Companies cutting corners. Bear in mind that every Industrial Poultry Unit in Powys has had to apply for planning consent and it appears that Welsh Water and NRW have agreed to that consent being given.

But don't talk about 'natural rivers' whilst applauding the Barbel in the Wye. They are an invasive species, its just that their presence has been convenient for financing the owners.
 

Handel

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And

and a Tory one at that ( not that I know too many Left wing Farmers). Of course he doesn't want to spend money on anything green or environmental sounding. It is short-termism all the way.
Not sure what that has to do with it SJF. I am sure you know it was an unholy alliance between the Tories and Plaid in the Senedd that almost chucked out the new slurry regulations. Best we keep politics out of this or people will just become more entrenched.
 

peterchilton

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Irrespective to how they got there, we have to accept that barbel are in the in the Wye and that they are here to stay. That is unless the level of pollution gets so bad as to totally kill off ALL life in or on the river and the rate things are going this is a possibility. Indeed I think the process has started for all to see with the loss of the water crowfoot, the massive reduction in the number of swans and the algae green water just to name some of the obvious signs. And if this is happening above the surface just think what is happening below!

What we need to concentrate upon is stopping/reducing the amount of pollution being chucked into the river by the water companies breaking the law with their illegal releases of raw sewage and the amounts of slurry (of all types), fertilisers, pesticides, anaerobic digestate and top soil runoff all from poor and unsustainable farming practices. And this needs to be done now with a strong enforcement regime. No more procrastination though lengthy investigations which is just wasting money kicking things down the road. The alternative is the total collapse of the river ecosystem, which as I mentioned above is already starting.

sad to say you are probably mostly correct

Imagine where the barbel fishing would be if the Salmon rod catch was 5500 averaging 13lb. Reduced to after the end of the Salmon season?
 

Elibank

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I relish the comments that have ranged over the subject these last weeks, but refuse to engage with “peterchilton” and his latest assertion that barbel are somehow responsible for Wye phosphate levels.
Pardon me for pointing this out, but if you pin up an article and someone replies with a contrary view, is it not disrespectful to refuse to engage with him?

This is a forum after all.
 

kirk

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Agree that the phosphates are unnatural and their presence is the fault of human intervention, but the same can be said for the Barbel they are also the product of human intervention. As you say many fish eat the stray eggs of Salmon and Trout, but its only the Barbel that actively dig the redds out to get the eggs.
I don't think anyone wants the Barbel killed, chucked into the bushes as you say, but they could be returned from whence they came, often where their numbers are now declining.
 

kirk

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Barbel have only been established in the Wye since the 1970's and the Wye's salmon stocks were in decline long before then so barbel are not the culprit. Barbel are in the Wye to stay so lets accept it and move on.

Everyone with a stake/interest in the Wye need to campaign together to protect the whole ecosystem of the Wye and its tributaries and not stand alone as a single species interest group and argue against other species and thereby alienate the anglers who fish for them.

I say this as an angler who fishes for barbel and salmon- but not at the same time.
 

kirk

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Not sure what that has to do with it SJF. I am sure you know it was an unholy alliance between the Tories and Plaid in the Senedd that almost chucked out the new slurry regulations. Best we keep politics out of this or people will just become more entrenched.
Unfortunately this is very much a political issue.

The current government have made it clear that they favour deregulation which allows unfettered money making and the removal of any impediments to said profit making

e.g. collecting, storing and responsibly disposing of chicken **** rather than washing it off into the nearest convenient sewer/river!

Approving planning application for yet more poultry farms next to rivers with no appropriate assessment of environmental damage.

Turning a blind eye to privatised Water Companies pumping untreated sewage into our rivers.

etc etc

|And Brexit got rid of EU directives on protection of water qualty
 

Handel

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Unfortunately this is very much a political issue.

The current government have made it clear that they favour deregulation which allows unfettered money making and the removal of any impediments to said profit making

e.g. collecting, storing and responsibly disposing of chicken **** rather than washing it off into the nearest convenient sewer/river!

Approving planning application for yet more poultry farms next to rivers with no appropriate assessment of environmental damage.

Turning a blind eye to privatised Water Companies pumping untreated sewage into our rivers.

etc etc

|And Brexit got rid of EU directives on protection of water qualty
Which current government? Most of the Wye is in Wales and is governed by the Welsh government. There are a fair few chicken farms in Herefordshire but there are a lot more in Powys. The letter in the OP is written by an MS not an MP and he may be a Tory but he is in opposition not in government.
 

Grassy_Knollington

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Barbel have only been established in the Wye since the 1970's and the Wye's salmon stocks were in decline long before then

Apparently firstly in the 50s, and I think you’ll be hard-pushed to find anyone other than Pashley’s ghost who thinks Wye stocks were in decline long before the 70s.

We all have to be honest here, the introduction and growth in Barbel stocks is likely to have some adverse impact on Salmon stocks - particularly of the middle-river spawners. I cannot think of a single river which has both thriving Salmon and thriving Barbek populations.

We also have to acknowledge that the Barbel are not likely to be the cause of all our woes. Practically speaking, we are never likely to be able to quantify their impact.

As the Barbel fishing grew in popularity, the river acquired a new group of ‘stakeholders’, keen to publicise and sell the quality of Wye fishing. In doing so, I think it is fair to say that these groups and individuals brushed over some of the long standing problems which the river was facing and which were likely culprits for the decline of Salmon stocks. Agricultural pollution, sewage etc.

Only now are those individuals and groups getting to grips with the scale of the task and only because it seems to be having an effect on their reputation, fishing pleasure and / or income.

In the latter respect theare no different from Salmon fishermen - we are notoriously one-eyed when it comes to conservation/ enhancement activities.

We’re all going to have to eat a little crow here and I think it’s better to find common ground for the greater good.

It is no good having Barbel vs Salmon or Barbel vs Chub or Salmon vs Grayling discussions.

Yes there is a distinctly hypocritical view of what is ‘natural’ in the Wye. Yes they are more concerned about Barbel than the wider river system. However they also want a lot of the things we want and Barbek anglers are now far more numerous than Salmon fishermen.

Therefore I say we bring John Bailey come-lately and the like into the fold and behind work which will improve the river for all species. Far better to have them on side and pulling in the same direction than fighting us and starting separate low-impact activities - that’s how the river has been lost imho.
 

kirk

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Well to clarify my meaning - the 50's is 20 years (quite a long time) before barbel were established in the Wye so they couldn't be responsible for the decline.

I think you will find John Bailey has been around quite a long time as well - but maybe not on this site.

There are salmon rivers with no barbel in which are in decline so I dont accept the link between salmon decline and barbel presence.

The Ure and other Yorkshire rivers have always had barbel (and native non-invasive ones at that) but it is broadly accepted that Salmon stocks have improved in the last 30 years although admittedly not to dizzying heights.

I think we are broadly in agreement and co-ordinated action needs to happen soon on the Wye, encompassing all interested parties, to avert complete disaster.
 
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peterchilton

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It was only the Severn that was stocked in 1956 with 509 fish between Underdale and Bewdley

definitive information here - http://www.fao.org/3/ae997b/AE997B07.htm

the Wye was never officially stocked but rumour has it that fish were taken illegally from the middle Severn and stocked into the Lugg initially.

Interesting is that no account was made of game fish abundance and the relative abundance of coarse fish started in 1975 when the growth of Barbel was just beginning to slow.
 

peterchilton

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Barbel have only been established in the Wye since the 1970's and the Wye's salmon stocks were in decline long before then so barbel are not the culprit. Barbel are in the Wye to stay so lets accept it and move on.

Im not sure that this is true, please show your evidence.
 

peterchilton

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Here is a graph showing rod and net catches from 1955 - 2000 on the Wye and adding 40% of the Severn estuary catches. Its self explanatory. After this period there was another sharp decline in rod catches in 1996, when the catch declined from 1880+ to 700+ and never really recovered.

graph-wye-catches-1955---2000.jpg
 
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