We have been doing battle with the Environment Agency consistently over the past four years about its regulation of hydropower on our rivers. Hydropower has the potential to cause great damage to our coarse and game fish stocks by damaging fish in turbines, preventing them getting to their spawning or feeding grounds and by reducing the flow left in stretches of river next to the turbines. ALL fish (apart perhaps from bullheads) need to migrate up and down rivers to complete their lifecycle. Hydropower turbines are like traffic lights on motorways; they have the potential to prevent fish producing more fish. Fish passes only work for some of the time, and predators like cormorants and otters quickly work out that these are places where it is easy to pick off prey – our fish!
We have heavily criticised the Environment Agency for failing to uphold its duties to ‘to maintain, improve and develop fisheries’ and to ‘consider and give due weight to fisheries’ when granting impoundment licences associated with hydropower schemes. I have written a strongly-worded letter to Paul Leinster, Chief Executive of the Environment Agency, highlighting his organisation’s shambolic regulation of hydropower and demanding immediate action to put it right.
The recent successful action by Fish Legal on behalf of the Pride of Derby Angling Club at Sawley weir to halt the damaging hydropower scheme on the river Trent was seriously hindered by the actions of the EA who granted an impoundment licence to the developers without any regard to the impact on the fishery. The developers were granted a permit by the Agency which allowed them to kill up to 10 adult salmon and 100 coarse fish in a 24 hour period without fear of enforcement action. By granting this licence the Agency also gave a private company a statutory defence to any civil claims against it for damaging the fishery caused by changing water levels and flow rates.
We have secured a meeting with Mr. Leinster this month to discuss these points and to highlight the concerns of anglers and fishery owners.
The minimal level of attention to fish and fishing is utterly inadequate from a public body which has a statutory duty to maintain, improve and develop fisheries. The fisheries department of the Agency, which is funded by our rod licences, does try to make the case internally for greater protection, but far too often they are ignored by other departments who seem hell-bent on selling our fish down the river to developers keen to make a quick buck from subsidies paid for by our taxes. It’s nothing short of a scandal and we will keep up the fight in 2013, on behalf of all anglers, and our beloved fish.