Angling Trust welcomes EA pledge to dramatically increase farm inspections in Wye catchment

The Angling Trust welcomes a commitment by the Environment Agency to dramatically increase regulatory farm inspection visits in the Wye catchment which has been severely affected by agricultural pollution.

The promise came at a meeting of representatives from the Angling Trust, Ross-on-Wye Angling Club, Wye Salmon Association, Environment Agency and other local interest groups to discuss the increasing pollution issues on the Wye.

The damage to the river has been due to high phosphate levels caused primarily by agricultural run-off, particularly from poultry farms, and has made national headlines in recent months. It is an issue that anglers have been at the forefront of highlighting along with many other river users.

The Environment Agency have four new dedicated Agriculture Regulatory Inspection Officers who plan to have carried out 150 farm visits in Herefordshire by the end of March and will have new resources committed for the next three years.

New funding will also enable the Environment Agency to develop remote satellite monitoring of soil erosion along river catchments, so they will have better information and evidence to target problem farms and areas.

John Cheyne, Head of Marketing and Communications at the Angling Trust, attended the meeting and was quick to praise this ongoing monitoring work of the Wye Salmon Association.

He said: “Anglers have been one of the driving forces behind raising the issues of pollution on the Wye for many years and it’s great to see so many other local stakeholders now backing our demands for change. The Wye Salmon Association, who are Angling Trust members, deserve huge praise for the co-ordinated monitoring work they have done along the whole length of the Wye which has helped to get this issue into national focus.”

The Environment Agency’s representatives included Harvey Bradshaw, Executive Director of Environment and Business, John Leyland, Director of Water Quality, and Kevin Austin, Deputy Director of Agriculture & Fisheries, and the meeting was arranged for those who know and love the river to have the chance to discuss what should be done to avert an ecological disaster in the near future.

John Cheyne added: “It’s great to see senior staff at the Environment Agency taking the time to engage with anglers and other river users at a grassroots level. I think we all appreciated the chance to make our feelings clear to the people whose responsibility it is to ensure our rivers are in a good ecological state. Action to change agricultural practices needs to be taken now and it needs to happen at a catchment level or the River Wye will be at crisis point very soon. This is a rural, agricultural community and nobody wants to see farmers prosecuted, but the work done by the Environment Agency on the River Axe in recent years has proved how effective farm visits can be if they are carried out regularly and by well-trained enforcement staff. Huge improvements were made on the Axe and not one famer was prosecuted.”

“We need EA officers inspecting farms, highlighting issues that lead to the pollution and helping farmers understand the changes that need to be made. We have had a commitment from the Agency that with the new staff they now have in place, they will be ramping up the number of enforcement visits in the next few months, so that is good news. To be fair to staff at the EA, they have faced massive cuts to their budget from government in the last 10 years so it’s great to see additional funding being directed to this issue. However this needs to be just the beginning and we will continue to demand that the Government provide the resources and the political will to make the current national shame of river pollution a thing of the past.”

The Angling Trust will continue to press the government to properly fund the enforcement of existing laws around agricultural and sewage pollution through our Anglers Against Pollution campaign. To support the campaign, join the Angling Trust and head over to our Anglers Against Pollution page on our website .

Attendees of the meeting with the River Wye in background

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