Are we fit to frack?

21 Mar

Last week, we launched a report challenging the government to regulate fracking properly, or risk harming threatened species and polluting our waterways. We teamed up with the National Trust, RSPB, the Salmon & Trout Association, the Wildlife Trusts and the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust to compile the report, which was peer reviewed by independent experts. We secured support from a cross party group of MPs including Zac Goldsmith, Alan Whitehead and Tessa Munt, who joined us for a photocall outside the house of commons with our Campaigns Chief Martin Salter. I went to Wiltshire to film for the BBC, and did my interview waist deep in a very cold chalk stream!

The report contains ten recommendations for making fracking safer as the Government continues its push to get companies to apply for licences to explore and drill for shale gas. We are calling for all protected wildlife areas, nature reserves and national parks to be frack-free zones, for full environmental assessments to be carried out for each drilling proposal, and for the shale gas industry to pay the costs of its regulation and any pollution clean-ups.

The report highlights a lack of regulation around shale gas exploitation which could cause serious impacts for a range of threatened species including salmon, trout and many other freshwater fish species. It also raises serious concerns about the impact of drilling and water contamination on some of our most precious natural habitats such as chalk streams. 85% of the world’s chalk streams are found in England, and a large proportion of fracking sites are in chalk catchments.

A poor fracking operation has the potential to pollute groundwater supplies and to cause damage to fragile ecosystems in our chalk streams and other rivers. That is why we need the strongest possible regulatory framework, funded from the profits of the industry rather than from taxpayers’ pockets.

Fewer than a quarter of our rivers are currently in good ecological condition and the rest suffer from widespread pollution and over-abstraction. The Environment Agency is struggling to tackle these existing problems, and faces the prospect of losing 1,500 staff. Our wildlife and fisheries need another major risk to water quality and an additional demand for water like they need a hole in the head.

We got some really good national press coverage for the report, which was on the BBC, ITV, and Sky as well as in the Sunday Times (with support from Vinnie Jones, a keen angler), the front page of the Telegraph and the Times.

The Angling Trust fights for fish and fishing every day of every week, but we can only do it with the support of anglers. Our membership is steadily growing. Please help us do more by joining right now (it only takes a couple of minutes) at www.anglingtrust.net/join

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