Ten days ago the first rainfall of any note for three months arrived in this part of the UK. It was barely enough to raise the rivers but water temperatures were slightly cooled. Considering the extreme conditions, it is unsurprising that we have not heard of any salmon being caught on either river in July.
Quite a few fisheries have now decided to stop fishing, including some that let their fishing via the Passport. A few weeks ago we advised owners of Passport fisheries in the middle/lower reaches of both rivers to close for salmon and trout fishing.
There have been concerns about coarse fish too. Most anglers will know that cyprinids have more tolerance of high water temperatures and low oxygen levels than salmonids. But they too can suffer, especially if handled incorrectly during and after capture ( see here for a catch and release guide for barbel).
The Foundation is taking regular water temperature readings up and down the river, which we will use to advise fishery owners. However, it is always the owners’ decision whether fisheries stay open or not.
Anglers too have a choice on whether or not to fish. Providing the right information is available, we believe that they are capable of making these decisions for themselves.
Stopping fishing, of course, is only a temporary and limited measure to an issue that is likely to occur more regularly in the future. The Foundation has always believed in tackling the causes (rather than the symptoms) of problems affecting the Wye and Usk. We are playing our part in trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and working with farmers to lock up large amounts of carbon in their soils. However, until everyone plays their part, temperatures will continue to rise. We must therefore also ensure that the rivers are more resilient.
The extra releases of cold water from the Usk reservoir and the Elan we agreed with Dwr Cymru/Welsh Water have been essential this year in keeping temperatures down and flows up in the upper reaches of both rivers.
There are other things we can do too. Natural Flood Management work enables more water to be absorbed by the land (rather than flowing straight into a river) to be released in times of drought. Our habitat improvement work in the upper catchments narrows and deepens streams, lessening their susceptibility to evaporation and heat.
Reducing abstraction and water conservation is also essential in keeping more water in rivers in conditions such as these. At long last the Government is bringing previously unlicensed agricultural “trickle” irrigation and “abstractions of right” into the overall control programme. Pressure must be kept up to ensure this is carried out, however, and that implementation is not allowed to drag.
Added together, these remedies provide the rivers with a further degree of protection against extremes of weather. Everyone needs to do their utmost to ensure this happens as well as making the fundamental changes required to reverse climate change.
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