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A brighter future for Welsh rivers - Wildlife Trusts Wales

Wildlife Trusts Wales welcomes the announcement of robust protection for our rivers and its wildlife

After many years of campaigning Wildlife Trusts Wales welcomes the Welsh Government announcement today of the introduction of the Water Resources (Control of Agricultural Pollution) (Wales) Regulations 2020.

Our rivers in Wales have suffered from serious water pollution incidences caused by a minority of farmers in Wales. Wildlife Trusts Wales welcomes the announcement today to tighten regulation to stop bad practice which causes catastrophic damage to wildlife. For too long the farming industry has relied on voluntary measures that simply haven’t deterred the worst offenders. We acknowledge that the majority of farmers do protect watercourses. These new regulations should enable a level playing field for all farmers in Wales.

Iolo Williams, BBC presenter and naturalist said: “This is great news for Welsh rivers and is long overdue. I wholeheartedly support any measures that will help improve the quality of Welsh rivers for wildlife and for people.”

The main cause of the pollution is leaching or at times deliberate disposal of slurry (animal waste) into rivers. Slurry is a strong pollutant which removed oxygen from the water, killing fish and other wildlife such as aquatic insects. This can leave large stretches of rivers and streams devoid of life including some of Wales’ most iconic rivers such as the Wye and Teifi. It can take decades for rivers to recover following an incident.

The new rules put agricultural best practice into legislation. This includes preventing farms in Wales from spreading slurry on their fields from mid-October to the start of February. This lessens the chance of it being washed into our rivers and streams and wreaking havoc on wildlife.

Welsh Government have previously described the number of agricultural pollution incidents in Wales as an "embarrassment" for the country. Natural Resources Wales (NRW) stated that most of Wales major rivers are suffering from significant water pollution. It warned that time was running out to "avoid a catastrophic situation for Wales".

Water pollution affects everyone in Wales. It is the public who pays for the clean-up through our water bills, as water companies spend millions of pounds removing agricultural pollution from our water.

Is Cornwall’s nature in a state? - Cornwall Wildlife Trust

With global leaders headed to Cornwall this year for the G7 summit to consider the climate crisis and other global environmental issues, what can we do at a local level to contribute towards these major challenges? Cornwall is famed across the world for its natural beauty, but a shocking new report has found that much of our local wildlife is in decline.

When we work together we can turn the fortunes of species around, for example the return of choughs to Cornwall (image by Pete Warman)
When we work together we can turn the fortunes of species around, for example the return of choughs to Cornwall (image by Pete Warman)

In 2019 the national State of Nature report gave the worrying news that since 1970, 41% of species have declined in abundance across the UK. This led to talk of an ‘ecological emergency’ and calls for it to be tackled alongside the climate crisis. Cornwall Wildlife Trust wanted to know if the same was true here in Cornwall, so teamed up with Cornwall Council and the University of Exeter and analysed a huge volume of local species and habitat data collected largely by volunteer ‘citizen scientists’.

The resultant State of Nature Cornwall 2020 report shows that many species groups are in trouble; nearly half of terrestrial mammals are now found in fewer places in Cornwall than in the 1980s and nearly half of our breeding birds are in serious decline. Whilst the report paints a generally gloomy picture, it does include some good news, detailing where concentrated conservation efforts have brought species back from the brink of local extinction.

Cheryl Marriott, Head of Conservation at Cornwall Wildlife Trust commented on the report, ‘There are parts that make for difficult reading; Cornwall’s wildlife is in a bad way and continued species decline will inevitably lead to local extinctions. But more positively, we did find that public appreciation of wildlife has surged during lockdown and we know from our work that together we can make a difference and bring nature back. That gives me hope we can still turn the situation around’.

The findings will be used by Cornwall Council in the Local Nature Recovery pilot they are delivering as one of only 5 national projects testing this new approach for nature, as set out in the Environment Bill. Cllr Rob Nolan, Cornwall Council Portfolio holder for Environment and Public Protection explains: 'Understanding how wildlife is faring is vital in our plans for nature recovery. Humans are very much part of the wider ecosystem and this report helps us see the links between people and nature, one and all! The findings will help us to prioritise the places and species in greatest need of action here in Cornwall.'

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