The first meeting of the Carmarthen Rivers Trust took place at Newton House in Dinefwr Park, Llandeilo, with 60 guests attending from groups both in and out of the county.
The meeting was opened by chairman of the Carmarthen Rivers Trust, Gethyn Thomas. In his opening speech he thanked guests for attending the launch of the trust.
He recognised the commitment of the trust to encouraging economic development, the importance of tourism and rural businesses in Carmarthenshire along with various projects which will prove beneficial to local people.
He added that educating the community, particularly children, to be aware of the aims of the trust and to get them involved in the importance of wildlife, river habitat, protecting and conserving plants and animals was important.
"It is important to work in partnership with local angling clubs, farmers, landowners, local authorities and community groups to maintain and improve safe access to the Carmarthen countryside," said Thomas.
The opening address was given by Arlin Rickard, director of the Association of Rivers Trusts, who spoke on the development and opportunities of trusts. Some of the issues facing the trusts are degraded water, wetland loss and flash floods.
There are 3.5 million freshwater anglers in Britain, 4.5 million potential anglers and at least three million sea anglers. Recruitment is important, particularly among women and retired people.
Pat O’Reilly MBE, who is with the Countryside Council for Wales, gave advice as to how he sees the trust being run. He recalled that there was a demand for an organisation to support and offer funding to improve the natural environment for the public good.
"Biodiversity loss is our loss,” he said. ”Get youngsters involved. Trusts can help in the learning process of water craft and the wildlife habitat, adult entomology and monitoring water life.
”With the Welsh Assembly Government, the CCW will assist in advice and assistance if required," he added.
Dr Graeme Harris, chairman of the ecology and recreation advisory committee, is an expert on sea trout.
Less than one year ago there were only two trusts in Wales – at the end of 2007 there will be seven new trusts. Hopefully there will be many more here.
He stressed the importance of maintaining the momentum – staying together is progress, working together is success, he pointed out
"The RSPB can be a friend," he said.
"Angling plays a very important part and get involved in other activities. There are opportunities in tree planting, habitat monitoring, weeds and wildlife, and river watch schemes.
"Above all, keep your feet on the ground. Remember funding sources. Link friends within the community and get active volunteers. Do not depend solely on external funding and broaden membership with private income."
Dr Dafydd Evans, head of fisheries for the Environment Agency, was born in Carmarthenshire and was pleased to be at the launch of the CRT.
He mentioned that there are many rivers in Wales that are at risk with salmon and sea trout stocks. There are problems with water quality and water quantity, habitat, obstruction, exploitation, problems associated with acid water and improved access to habitat. He mentioned the recent work carried out on the fish pass at Cynghordy on the River Bran near Llandovery.
Four million pounds from Welsh Assembly Government funding has gone into fishing over a number of years and Dr Evans stressed the importance of recruiting new members into the trust.
Alun Davies of the Welsh Assembly Government said he is very interested in fisheries and was pleased to be at the launch of the CRT. He mentioned the important role Professor John Stoner played in the preparation of the CRT.
He said: ”Education plays a very important role, particularly among children. The general public, landowners, anglers and fishery owners all can play a vital part in working with the trust.
"Fisheries are a valuable asset depending on water quality. Fisheries are a valuable indication of the health of our rivers. Almost everything that we do to rivers can affect the fishery and rivers trusts.
”Anglers or members of the public can get involved in the care and restoration. The type of work that trusts have carried out is extensive: removing barriers, building fish passes, habitat improvements, stock assessment, pollution control and getting communities involved in angling in places where the river has been forgotten."
As well as fisheries, river trusts carry our work specifically for all sorts of species that depend on rivers. The type of work the trusts carry out is projects to help otters,water voles, freshwater pear mussel, water crowfoot and white-clawed crayfish. Some of the work the trust carry out will improve water quality and habitats and will help all the species that live in and around the river.
River trusts mainly focus on restoring habitats of rivers and river banks, particularly where there has been damage due to bank erosion. One of the aims of the trusts is to ensure that communities have access to the rivers such as walking and general enjoyment, as well as fishing and demonstrating good ways to look after the river.
Water quality is critical. Perhaps one of the biggest issues facing river trusts is working in partnership with farmers to reduce pollution and its effects, such as building wetlands and protective area.
They will work with water companies and the Environment Agency Wales to raise the importance of dealing with pollution from sewage systems and industry and working to identify water quality problems in their river.
The strength of the Carmarthen River Trust is to recognise that communities can tackle problems relating to them. Other issues are the effects of abstraction, drought, acid rain, pressure from development, litter and underlying social problems to environmental decline.
Chairman Gethyn Thomas closed the meeting by thanking all the speakers for their advice. He thanked his volunteers for getting the CRT off the ground; for the trust to survive they need members from all aspects of the community.
The future is bright for the Carmarthenshire Rivers Trust but they need your support.
Further information can be obtained from Carmarthenshire Rivers Trust, Ty Cambria, Drefach, Llanelli SA14 7BB. Send a pre-paid self addressed envelope for an A4 printed full coloured fact sheet, or visit www.carmarthenshire.org or e-mail email@example.com
Environment Agency Head of Fisheries, Dafydd Evans