The Angling Trust, Atlantic Salmon Trust, Afonydd Cymru, Association of Rivers Trusts, Salmon & Trout Association and Wild Trout Trust have today written a joint letter to Paul Leinster CBE, Chief Executive of the Environment Agency (EA) to express their frustration at the way his organisation has failed to take account of the protection of fish and rivers in its approach to hydropower.
After more than a year of campaigning for equal involvement in the Agency's discussions with the British Hydropower Association (BHA), angling and fisheries interests were finally granted this opportunity. They provided detailed verbal and written comments on ways in which the Agency's so-called Good Practice Guidelines should be improved to ensure that new schemes have no adverse impact on fish and flows. Once again, these comments have been largely ignored in the latest draft of the guidelines. In frustration, the angling and fishery representatives have withdrawn from a scheduled meeting with the Agency and the BHA. Instead they have written to the EA Chief Executive requesting an urgent meeting at a senior level to bring about a change of policy. Their letter, which is reproduced in full below, has been copied to the EA's Chairman, Lord Chris Smith, the Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon MP and Energy Minister Greg Barker MP.
The EA has a statutory duty to maintain, improve and develop fisheries and to meet the demanding standards of the Water Framework Directive - standards which are being failed for many rivers because of poor fish populations. Hundreds of applications for low-head hydropower have been submitted in the past year and the EA is actively promoting the opportunity for thousands more. Anglers' representatives and fisheries charities are extremely concerned that these developments will damage fish populations, many of which are already in peril from diffuse pollution and over-abstraction. Hydropower turbines have been demonstrated to injure and kill fish passing through them and the developments often cause long stretches of river to suffer from reduced flows. The weirs needed for hydropower schemes can block fish migration; this is a problem for many species, but is particularly serious for those that migrate to and from the sea, such as salmon, sea trout and eels. Some single river systems have hundreds of potential schemes being mooted, and the NGOs are calling on the EA to consider their cumulative impact.
Mark Lloyd, Chief Executive of the Angling Trust said: "We have spent months and months providing information and detailed advice to the Environment Agency about this issue and we cannot identify any evidence that our input has been treated seriously. We are certainly not opposed to hydropower in principle, but healthy rivers are vital to biodiversity and anglers collectively own and lease several billion pounds worth of fishing rights on them. These invaluable assets need to be protected and we are demanding in the strongest possible terms that the concerns of anglers and fisheries charities are taken seriously. There are a small number of opportunities nationally where hydropower turbines could be installed sustainably, and they would have local benefits especially if accompanied by steps to improve fish migration, but in general they cause far more harm to the aquatic environment than they benefit the atmosphere."