Passion for… A Cleaned Up Wye

kirk

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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.
Good point - I was referring to Boris Johnson et al - my knowledge of Welsh politics is negligible
 

kirk

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peterchilton

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My Graph included the net catch, gives a better picture. Here is the 'bigger picture' scottish salmon rod catch over a similar period to my previous graph., Not many Barbel up there but a distinct change in run timings.

You are correct though, there are many pressures on atlantic salmon all over the north atlantic. What the Wye salmon didn't need was another pressure in the shape of an illegally introduced, non indigenous, invasive species who's introduction threatens biodiversity. Let alone an invasive species that destroys redds, eats the eggs and the young.

scottish-rod-catches-1952-1993.jpg
 

kirk

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My Graph included the net catch, gives a better picture. Here is the 'bigger picture' scottish salmon rod catch over a similar period to my previous graph., Not many Barbel up there but a distinct change in run timings.

You are correct though, there are many pressures on atlantic salmon all over the north atlantic. What the Wye salmon didn't need was another pressure in the shape of an illegally introduced, non indigenous, invasive species who's introduction threatens biodiversity. Let alone an invasive species that destroys redds, eats the eggs and the young.

View attachment 65317
 

kirk

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We are not a million miles apart on the main issue but perhaps we can agree to disagree on the level of threat to salmon posed by barbel in the Wye.
 

charlieH

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We are not a million miles apart on the main issue but perhaps we can agree to disagree on the level of threat to salmon posed by barbel in the Wye.

The problem is that, so far as I'm aware, nobody has actually done any proper investigation into the impact of introduced barbel on salmon. I try and approach things with an open mind, but I think you will agree that the great majority of alien introductions, whether fauna or flora, have had a negative impact on indigenous species. So unless anyone can produce evidence to the contrary, I think it's reasonable to start with the assumption that the introduction of barbel will have not been good news for salmon - though, of course, I don't think anyone is suggesting that they are solely to blame for the decline of Wye salmon. If, as it appears, you think the effect of barbel on salmon is negligible, can I ask how you arrived at that opinion?

I find it somewhat frustrating that John Bailey has so far declined to respond to my enquiry on another thread about his comment that the subject was 'put to bed' some time ago. This suggests to me that some conclusion was reached - presumably based on scientific research - that quantified the impact. I do hope John will do me the courtesy of explaining his comment. As I say, I am sufficiently open minded to be persuadable that the effect of barbel is negligible if anyone can produce some proper evidence to support that. But until then I remain of the view that the introduction of non-native species is a bad thing. As ever with environmental issues, it seems to me that the precautionary principle should apply - that's to say that it is for the supporters of an action (in this case the introduction of barbel) to demonstrate that the risks to that environment are either negligible or acceptable, rather than for those who oppose them to argue a case to the contrary.
 

John Bailey

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‘The State of our Rivers’​

I’m gratified there is still interest in the Wye and all our rivers, but then again, how can there not be? I have spent the morning watching a YouTube launch meeting for The State Of Our Rivers report, put together by the Rivers Trust and, if you have an hour to kill, I’d suggest you do the same (see above). You’ll also find a link on the Rivers Trust website>>, and the site itself is worth a browse if you have not been on it before.

If you take the time to watch this you will have your own opinions, which are every bit as valid as mine, in many cases more so. However, for my part, there was little in the film I did not know, but it did help amplify that knowledge. There were nine of ten talking heads from the EA, the Trust itself, from wild swimmers, government, River Action UK, and the media. Everyone spoke sense, showed concern and passion, and explained the problems we face clearly. Then why did I find the whole experience profoundly depressing, apart from the fact that fish and fishing were barely considered worth a mention?

I expect this goes back to 1995. That was the year that the EA and the Wye & Usk Foundation were both formed, and I was captivated by a sense of new beginnings. Simon Johnson was head of EA Fisheries in Norfolk, and his enthusiasm and input were a breath of fresh air. Equally, Stephen Marsh-Smith at the infant WUF blew me away with his fervour and his apparent understanding of the Wye’s problems, especially relating to salmon. This all happened twenty six years ago, and in that while I have seen a proliferation of environmental initiatives, and a whole host of experts working to put our rivers right. The result, as we all know, is that only 14% of our rivers today are even passably okay, and the vast majority are in a sorry state indeed.

The State Of Our Rivers report only amplified this knowledge, and contributed even more damning data to the whole sorry scenario. In short, the water companies allow floods of sewage into our rivers, and farmers pollute our rivers with an endless cocktail of contaminants. There are other issues too, but in the view of the report, these are arguably the biggies.

But who is going to a thing about this? Government? The EA? Natural England? Defra? Natural Resources Wales? Any one of a thousand independent organisations like WUF, the Rivers Trust or even the Angling Trust? The last twenty six years, and this Zoom meeting, suggested not a chance. Mark Lloyd possibly came out strongest when he called for all these disparate voices to “converge, collaborate and become cohesive” – or something similar! I suspect he is right. Perhaps we have had enough of a babble of voices clamouring to be heard, and possibly one body that can really get things done is the way forward? But where does this body come from? How is it funded? What are its powers? What do the thousands of fishery experts do if they lose their jobs?

As I suggested a day ago, perhaps it is down to the consumer to demand that the supermarkets insist on produce that is grown (or reared) in an ecologically sound fashion? Avara and Tesco might just be taking a lead on chickens that could be rolled out more generally? But, as you can see from all these question marks, my hopes are not high.

I’ll leave you with a photograph of my wife with her first Wye fly-caught barbel. I accept it is not a salmon, but it is something, a suggestion that where there is life there is hope. Mark Lloyd described the treatment of our rivers as “a wicked problem”. It is only right that this conversation continues, surely?

IMG_2126.jpg



The post 'Passion for the Wye... 'The State of our Rivers' first appeared in Fish&Fly Magazine.

Continue reading...
 

kirk

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I hold my hands up and admit I haven't carried out a detailed scientific investigation into all the possible negative factors impacting on Salmon in the Wye - and I don't think anyone else who has participated in this exchange of views has.

There is no argument that barbel are not a native species in the Wye and were intentionally introduced into the Wye around 50 to 70 years ago by human intervention However, it is very important to remember that there are rivers in the UK, e.g. the Ure and other Yokshire rivers, where are native barbel and salmon have been co-existing for thousands of years . The evidence is that pollution during the Industrial Revolution had a devastating impact on the water quality, and consequently in salmon numbers, in the Yorkshire rivers and as the water quality has improved there has been some level of improvement in salmon numbers.

I do not claim that barbel (or other native fish ) have no impact on salmon, probably mainly through their impact on Salmon redds, any more than I might suggest that Kingfishers don't have any impact on the population of minnows in the Wye. However, I can't help feeling that focussing on the impact of barbel on salmon numbers in the Wye, when the impact of phosphates on the whole Wye ecosystem is clearly so much worse, is a bit like concentrating on the impact of BBQ's on climate change whilst ignoring the far greater impact of coal burning power stations.

However, the other obvious complicating factor with salmon in comparison with non-migratory fish is that what happens in the Wye (or any other river) is just part of the salmon's story and what happens during their time in the sea is another story, and even more difficult to get a good understanding of in terms of the negative effect of all the factors which may be impacting on numbers of salmon returning to the Wye, e.g. climate change, pollution, predation etc. What happens during the salmon's time in the sea could also potentially negate any benefits to salmon of hard-earned improvements in the river environment.

So, in conclusion, I say lets work together for the benefit of whole river ecosystems rather than split into antagonistic factions acting to protect individual species. I also say barbel are now very much a part of the Wye ecosystem and are not going anywhere.
 

John Bailey

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I thought “kirk's” assessment of salmon, barbel and the Wye was a very fair one, and if I do put up occasional images of barbel, it is not to antagonise. I first fished the Wye for four summers between 1961/64, and so loved it I returned regularly as an adult in the early 80s. I found the salmon stocks dwindling greatly by the end of that decade, but rather than leaving the river I had a passion for, I concentrated on barbel.

I have therefore watched barbel in the Wye for over thirty years, and I cannot think they are by any stretch the greatest problem that salmon stocks face. I appreciate the concerns of course, but I fear there are bigger problems by far, and we should not take our eye off these and be side-tracked?

I wonder if this attention on the Wye is annoying to people who do not know or fish it? Perhaps it is simply that the Wye is iconic, but more than that, it is a test case we can rally around. For example, I have just been reading about similar issues on the Camel, so the Wye can be seen as representative I hope.

For the moment, let us be encouraged that so many of us care. We might not agree about details, but I think we do about the fundamental issue which, of course, is to restore the Wye and ALL rivers.
 

peterchilton

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But, one aspect of the Wye that makes it a non Natural River, that you often talk about, is the illegally released and non native Barbel population. He talks of 'other native fish' as if the Barbel is one of them. The other native fish are part of the balance.

Natural Barbel populations in east flowing rivers have their own balance and I can't see that any of those rivers have ever had a Salmon population and rod catch that matches the Wye.

The Wye is and has been an extraordinary salmon river and should be preserved as such, in its Natural state wherever possible.

So let us settle for something less than Natural if we have to but stop using the 'Natural' word to describe that thing. Let us not follow the hypocritical lead of Natural Resources Wales.
 
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Grassy_Knollington

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The difference between the Ure and the Wye is that the Ouse system (to the best of my knowledge), did not and does not have significant middle river spawning. Either on the main stem, or on the lower reaches of the Ure, & Swale where Barbel habitat is best. MCX may know much more.

The Wye did have that and the mid river component of the Wye stock was significant. I think it will be more challenging (than it already is) to re-establish that stock with a thriving Barbel population.

The Wye Salmon have bigger challenges than Barbel and we need to accept they are here to stay. However, let’s also accept that the Barbel are probably not a good thing for restoration of Wye Salmon stocks.
 
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kirk

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But, one aspect of the Wye that makes it a non Natural River, that you often talk about, is the illegally released and non native Barbel population. He talks of 'other native fish' as if the Barbel is one of them. The other native fish are part of the balance.

Natural Barbel populations in east flowing rivers have their own balance and I can't see that any of those rivers have ever had a Salmon population and rod catch that matches the Wye.

The Wye is and has been an extraordinary salmon river and should be preserved as such, in its Natural state wherever possible.

So let us settle for something less than Natural if we have to but stop using the 'Natural' word to describe that thing. Let us not follow the hypocritical lead of Natural Resources Wales.

But, one aspect of the Wye that makes it a non Natural River, that you often talk about, is the illegally released and non native Barbel population. He talks of 'other native fish' as if the Barbel is one of them. The other native fish are part of the balance.

Natural Barbel populations in east flowing rivers have their own balance and I can't see that any of those rivers have ever had a Salmon population and rod catch that matches the Wye.

The Wye is and has been an extraordinary salmon river and should be preserved as such, in its Natural state wherever possible.

So let us settle for something less than Natural if we have to but stop using the 'Natural' word to describe that thing. Let us not follow the hypocritical lead of Natural Resources Wales.
I made it very clear that I accept that barbel are not native to the Wye and when I said 'other native fish' I was merely highlighting that native fish also eat the roe of breeding fish including that of salmon.

I made reference to Yorkshire rivers because they do and always have always supported native barbel and salmon as an example to show that salmon and barbel can and do co-exist in UK rivers. The Yorkshire rivers are also an example of how pollution impacted severely on salmon populations and how improvements in water quality/ reductions in pollution can result in an increase in numbers of salmon. I have not said that the Wye and the Yorkshire river are comparable in terms of the size of their salmon populations but you may be surprised to hear that pre- Industrial Revolution there were around 3000 salmon being caught each year just from the River Ure. Pollution , not barbel, was the cause of catastrophic decline in salmon numbers in the Yorkshire river systems.

I will also add that the decline in salmon in Scottish rivers is also nothing to do with barbel.

I don't believe I have used the term "Natural" in any of my posts.

I think you delude yourself that the Wye will, or could, ever return to a situation of having no barbel. It just will not happen, no matter how much you personally may want it, so lets all accept that barbel are in the Wye to stay and focus on the more serious threats to the river and everything that lives in it.
 

peterchilton

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So the Barbel, thats the non natural fish that dig up the redds to eat the eggs not the natural fish species that just pick off the escapees, do we see Chub and Roach digging up redds? Maybe not as they aren't equipped for this in the way that the Barbel are.

Shall we talk about the phosphate load of boilies, pellets and groundbait?

I agree that I can't see the removal of the Barbel on the horizon as no one really has the stomach for returning the Wye to a 'Natural' river and just imagine the short term loss of income, and the travelling expenses of the Barbel anglers back to the Wensum, Trent etc where all the Wye Barbel could be relocated.

btw I was referring to Mr Bailey and his 'Natural' river posts, ask Spock he will understand.

so lets all accept that barbel are in the Wye to stay and focus on the more serious threats to the river and everything that lives in it.

so what is that threat and what are you doing about it? Maybe I can offer some support?
 
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kirk

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TBH - I'm starting to lose iterest in the back and forth on this thread and the fixation with the 'alien invader' barbel.

- The 'threat' is the phosphate loaded wash-off from the poultry farms

and

'what am I doing about it' - I have contributed money to assist a legal appeal relating to a council's failure to properly asess the impact of phosphates on the river when considering planning applications for yet more poultry farms.

Not sure what Spock has to do with this but I am asking for Scottie to beam me up!!!
 

GeeBee

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Is the Hampshire Avon a native barbel fishery i wonder ? It is famous for both its barbel and salmon fisheries, though both have declined from their heydays.

i also wonder if the barbel are an issue in the western rivers, if the reintroduction of otters would keep their numbers down in a kind of symbiotic way ?
 

peterchilton

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The Wye catchment was one of the strongholds of the otter when it was declining elsewhere in England and Wales. Dont tell me that Otters eat Barbel?

As for the Hants Avon, Barbel seem to be native there but the salmon fishery has never been comparable to the Wye in numbers although it is equally famed for big spring fish. I can only see 2 times that the salmon rod catch exceeded 1000 since 1955 and more recently the catches have been counted in 10's rather than 100's. They had a bit of a renaissance recently when the rod catch shop up to 211 in 2015 and 193 in 2016, when the Wye catch also had a temporary improvement. Probably to do with better sea survival?
 

kirk

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The difference between the Ure and the Wye is that the Ouse system (to the best of my knowledge), did not and does not have significant middle river spawning. Either on the main stem, or on the lower reaches of the Ure, & Swale where Barbel habitat is best. MCX may know much more.

The Wye did have that and the mid river component of the Wye stock was significant. I think it will be more challenging (than it already is) to re-establish that stock with a thriving Barbel population.

The Wye Salmon have bigger challenges than Barbel and we need to accept they are here to stay. However, let’s also accept that the Barbel are probably not a good thing for restoration of Wye Salmon stocks.
An interesting comment regarding the middle river spawning on the Wye - whereabouts on the Wye are you talking about- I had always assumed all salmon in the Wye would be spawning in the upper reaches?

It may be of interest, even a cause of celebration for some - but not me, that numbers of barbel caught on the Wye this season have been pretty dismal.
 

kirk

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The Wye catchment was one of the strongholds of the otter when it was declining elsewhere in England and Wales. Dont tell me that Otters eat Barbel?

As for the Hants Avon, Barbel seem to be native there but the salmon fishery has never been comparable to the Wye in numbers although it is equally famed for big spring fish. I can only see 2 times that the salmon rod catch exceeded 1000 since 1955 and more recently the catches have been counted in 10's rather than 100's. They had a bit of a renaissance recently when the rod catch shop up to 211 in 2015 and 193 in 2016, when the Wye catch also had a temporary improvement. Probably to do with better sea survival?

Ask any keen barbel angler about the impact of otters on barbel populations and you may want to take a few steps back and put your fingers in your ears to prevent damage to your hearing...😖😖😖

Yes, of course otters eat barbel and otter predation has played a major part in the serious decline of previously thriving barbel populations in many UK rivers. The level of blame attributable to otters and the part played by other factors is a much debated and contentious subject which I will not enter into on this forum.The exceptions have tended to be the larger rivers like the Trent and Wye and I do not believe otters to be a major threat to the barbel population in the Wye.
 

peterchilton

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a quote from the old Wye river authority -
During the period 1966 to 1971 the annual rod catch had averaged 5413 fish with a peak of 7864 fish in 1967 of which 4842 were recorded as being over 15lb! 1971 saw 5094 fish (average weight 1.44lb) caught including two good fish of 34.5lb and 39lb in March. Sustained high water in June resulted in a months catch of 1687 fish, spread out well throughout the river! As a result probably of the high numbers of fish in the river there was a considerable increase in poaching activity, particularly around Chepstow and a marked vicious streak in attacks on bailiff s property and anonymous threatening phone calls. The Wye River Authority (WRA) by now having replaced the old WRB responded by increasing bailiffs to 12 paid and 30 honorary resulting in 36 prosecutions! Spawning activity was recorded exceptionally early in 1971 with redds being observed at Newbridge on Wye on 6th September! UDN (Ulcerative Dermal Necrosis) first seen in the river in 1968 had become firmly established by 1970 and was reported as markedly reduced in 1971, although observed in salmon, trout and other species. Whilst it was considered that UDN did not appear to have affected spawning the effects were observed in significant numbers of kelts and dramatically increased at the end of the spawning period. The total fish recorded as having died from UDN was 2831 in 1968 and by 1971 had declined to 741 . Its interesting to note that many more fish were recorded as spawning in 1971 compared to 1970! Minks, Herons, Cormorants, Mergansers and Goosanders were all considered significant menaces and the Authorities were offering ?2 per head for Mink killed. Herons were present in large numbers and had bred well during 1970 and 1971. Cormorants were considered as much too numerous !

The 1973 season opened on a very high note and a 34lb fish was taken on opening day. A number of big fish were caught up to the end of April including fish of 38lb, 36lb, 35lb and a considerable number over 30lb. For the first time for a number of years a fish of over 40lb (43lb) was taken. Although UDN was observed as present on some fish, most caught were in excellent condition, of very good colour and deep proportions . The rod catch for the year was 5542 (average weight 13.7lb), 3333 of which were caught below Hereford. Average market price for Salmon at 70p (14s 0d in old money) had reached its highest recorded point! A good year for spawning, the highest density of cut redds was between Winforton and Bridge Sollars! The decline of UDN noted in 1971 was reversed in 1973, probably as a result of very mild weather and water conditions with in excess of 800 fresh fish and 500 kelts taken from the river apparently dead as a result of UDN.

1976, the year of the drought! Catch for season at 3438 was half of the 1975 figure of 6796. Long before the end of June had given up any idea of salmon fishing until there was an appreciable rise in the river. The flowering heads of ranunculus covered the whole river and was a probable contributory factor to the lower river fish mortality. Some 462 salmon recorded having succumbed to oxygen deficiency. Disolved oxygen saturation levels as low as 14% were recorded against the level at which salmon are considered to be disturbed of 60%. River teperatures of 80deg F were recorded at Monmouth. Of the catch only 101 fish of under 8lb, which were deemed to be Grilse, were recorded! against a long term average of 31.2% the upper river catch was only 5.9% of the total.

I suggest more research.
 

peterchilton

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I also have a annual report from welsh water for 1986 where it states that Hereford Anglers had a poor season with only an increase of Barbel catches worth mentioning with best caught at just over 7lb. Biggest bag of Chub was just over 70lb (not very good for the Wye?) There was similar increase of Barbel at Moreton and Marsden with most of the Barbel being small. No barbel mentioned in the Hay report or at Garnons etc.
 
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