Massive death of River Wye salmon averted

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Salmon in the lower River Wye narrowly avoided death from overheating this week, thanks to quick action by a conservation group.

The Atlantic salmon, for which the river is famous, perish when the water temperature exceeds 27°C.

Fearing a repeat of the major ‘fish kill’ in the river during the 1976 heat wave, the Wye & Usk Foundation (WUF) persuaded Welsh Water and Natural Resources Wales to release water from the Elan Valley reservoirs in the upper reaches of the river at the end of last week to increase its flow and evacuate the warmer water.

The group also urged farmers along the river to ‘stop where possible, or otherwise limit, their water withdrawal from the Wye on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday to ensure this release of water reaches the fish for which it is intended “, according to an email. he sent.

Some residents along the river took to Twitter over the weekend to point out that individual farms continued to strip and irrigate crops with spray guns.

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But WUF chief executive Simon Evans said today (July 20) that enough farmers had heeded his call to raise river levels, even before the effect of the reservoir’s release took hold. makes itself felt.

As a result, “apart from a few dead fish around Holme Lacy, what we feared has not happened,” he said, adding that salmon can now be seen active again as temperatures cool. are cooling.

“We don’t know yet if the releases were essential,” he said. “We will have to analyze the data of the last days and learn lessons in order to react better next time.

“But it shows what can be done if everyone works together.”

Jesse Norman, MP for Hereford and South Herefordshire, a frequent critic of statutory bodies’ accountability for the river, said it was “amazing” that it took the intervention of the WUF, a voluntary group, to resolve this “serious problem”.

“In an ideal world, we should expect agencies, regulators and government to respond collectively and quickly to this kind of challenge,” he said.

“We will need them to do this as these events become more frequent.”

Mr Norman recently convened a cross-border task force of agencies, local authorities and other key players to look into the state of the river.

He said that while this would initially focus on phosphate pollution in the river, in the future it could also address wider issues such as low flows.

Meanwhile, the combination of pollution, heat and low rainfall means the river’s wildlife are still not out of danger, with algae ‘blooms’, which can be deadly to aquatic life. , which would have reappeared in some sections.

Post photo of the river at Foy north of Ross-on-Wye, Juraj Mikurcik tweeted: “Peasoup river #Wye – I have never seen water so low and polluted”.

“Algal blooms will always be back because of the phosphate problem,” said Simon Evans.

“Either you reduce the number of animals in the catchment or you extract the phosphate from the manure, package it and send it to parts of the country where it is needed, such as the east of England, rather than to import it.

“We are working with farmers to get the necessary technology in place and getting it funded.”

The Environment Agency says incidents of dead or distressed fish in rivers and lakes should be reported on its helpline number, 0800 80 70 60.

He has also developed a new algal bloom early warning system for the River Wye

The Hereford Times Save the Wye campaign is calling for more concerted action to protect the river.

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