Thursday, 18 November 2010

Saving Bristol Bay

Many of you will not have heard of Bristol Bay in Alaska. Well its safe to say that is probably one of the worlds most important wild salmon fisheries. It is a stunningly beautiful yet fragile wilderness. I am sad to report that it's under threat from the spectre of open cast mining. In a nutshell if this mine goes ahead it will probably destroy one of the worlds most special catchments, its fish, wildlife and the communities that depend upon it.

So why should we be concerned? - Alaska is a very long way from the UK. For me it's simply about just knowing that places like Bristol Bay exist. I may never visit Bristol Bay but I just want to be able to offer the opportunity perhaps for my kids and their kids to have the continuing chance to visit these special places. (I just hope they take me along!)

Open Cast mining is hugely damaging and despite what the industry would have us believe, there has never been a mine of the scale proposed that has not caused widespread and irreversible environment damage...period!

You can help this campaign by visiting

I have taken the step of sending an email to the State Governor of Alaska to voice my concerns. Some may view this a token gesture. However if the Alaskan Government knows the eyes of the world are on this campaign it may just go someway to influence the decision makers. And if the boot was on the other foot we would be glad of support from Alaska!

Someone once said "they ain't making rivers anymore" in the case of Bristol Bay I would expand on this and say "they ain't making ecosystems anymore!"

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Blueprint for Water

If you care about how much wet stuff flows down our rivers then please let me draw your attention to the recently re-launched 'Blueprint for Water'.

Water is our most precious natural resource. It is vital to people’s health and happiness, vital for the environment and our wildlife, and vital to our economy. But this most precious asset is in crisis. That is why in 2006 a coalition of leading environmental organisations, launched the Blueprint for Water, setting out 10 steps to sustainable water.

Four years on, during the International Year of Biodiversity, our rivers, lakes and ponds remain our most threatened habitats; targets for restoration and creation of wetlands remain unmet; and River Basin Management Plans promise just 5% improvement by 2015.

Here are the 10 steps to sustainable water by 2015

Waste less water Reduce water consumption by at least 20% through more efficient use in homes, buildings and businesses

Keep our rivers flowing and wetlands wet Reform abstraction licensing to reduce pressure on rivers, lakes and wetlands today and increase flexibility to adapt to future climate change

Price water fairly Make household water bills reflect the amount of water people use

Make polluters pay Make those who damage the water environment bear the costs through more effective law enforcement, tougher penalties and fairer charges

Stop pollutants contaminating our water Introduce targeted regulations to reduce harmful pollutants in water

Keep sewage out of homes and rivers and off beaches Upgrade the sewage system to reduce discharges of sewage into urban environments and ecologically sensitive areas

Support water-friendly farming Reward farmers who deliver healthy rivers, lakes, ponds and wetlands, and provide a range of other benefits to society

Slow, manage and clean drainage from roads and buildings Create a modern urban drainage network that can mitigate surface water flooding and trap pollution

Protect and restore catchments from source to sea Regenerate rivers, lakes and wetlands in partnership with local communities

Retain water on floodplains and wetlands Restore large areas of wetland and floodplain to create vital wildlife habitats, improve water quality and quantity, and reduce urban flooding
You can download the Blueprint at:
A book I'm reading on catchment conservation in the USA contained a local residents comment at a public consultation on water resource planning.
"Why don't we take all this money we are spending on regulation and pay farmers to have wild fish in our rivers? We could do it!"
Difficult logic to argue against...isn't it?!

Monday, 15 November 2010

Taking the Initiative on Invasives

Eden Rivers Trust is launching a new initiative in the Eden Valley to take action against invasive alien species. This will mobilise all interested parties in a coordinated plan of attack, to stop the spread of unwanted species already here and prevent the introduction of others not yet arrived.

The first step is to get the relevant people and organisations together, to find out the extent of the problem, and to discuss possible ways of tackling it. This will take place at an event on Thursday 2nd December 2010 in Newbiggin Hall, Newbiggin, near Stainton from 10am to 1pm.

Eden Rivers Trust would like anyone interested to come along to this event and get involved. They want to gather local knowledge on the location and extent of invasive species along the River Eden and its tributaries. They also want to hear about any action already taking place, and suggestions about the best way forward.

The aim is to create an Eden Invasive Species Group which will identify invasive species in the River Eden catchment, prioritize future control, and co-ordinate the work that is already being done.

This event is the start of a coordinated approach to tackling invasive species in the Eden Valley. We hope as many people as possible will come along to share their knowledge and ideas on how to keep out or get rid of these unwanted animals and plants.

To book your place, please contact me on tel. no. 01768 866788 or email, so that we have an idea of the number of people attending.

Himalayan Balsam, Japanese Knotweed and Giant Hogweed are the three plants causing most concern at present. These occur particularly along river banks and all have negative impacts on the local wildlife, as well as on farming and recreation. Himalayan balsam, for example, smothers our native riverside plants, dies back in winter and leaves banks bare and vulnerable to erosion. Japanese knotweed is extremely vigorous and rapidly takes over vast areas, growing through tarmac, concrete and drains. Giant Hogweed is a health hazard because it contains toxic sap which can cause severe burns.

Other invasive species of concern include American signal crayfish and a parasite of fish called Gyrodactylus salaris. Neither of these are currently found in the Eden catchment but could arrive at any time and be disastrous for the local environment and economy.

American signal crayfish occur in all the counties surrounding Cumbria and they and the disease they carry, crayfish plague, are lethal to the native white-clawed crayfish, which has one of its last strongholds in the county.

Local fish populations are at risk from the invasive parasite called Gyrodactylus salaries, which is found in Scandinavia and other parts of Europe. It causes a serious fish disease called Gyrodactylosis which infects the skin, gills and fins of salmon, trout and some other species of freshwater fish. This disease is one of the biggest threats to the wild salmon population in the UK and has the potential to cause widespread losses in the UK’s valuable stocks of both wild and farmed freshwater Atlantic salmon. If introduced here it would be difficult to eradicate because of the very diverse nature of our river ecosystems.

To stop the spread of crayfish plague and Gyrodactylus, it is essential to ensure that any equipment such as boats, fishing nets, waders, etc used on rivers and other water bodies is thoroughly dried and disinfected before it is used again. These diseases can easily be spread via tiny spores carried on wet gear, especially felt-soled waders as they rarely dry out completely.

Eden Rivers Trust is also working with the county-wide coordinator of the Cumbria Freshwater Invasive Non-native Species (FINNS) Initiative (visit for more details). This will ensure that all those involve in invasive species will learn from each others’ experiences and there will be a coordinated approach across the county. For more information on non-native invasive species visit

If you would like to come along to Eden Rivers Trust’s event on the 2nd December please book your place by contacting Eden Rivers Trust on 01768 866788 or email