Salmon & Trout Conservation ‘The Environment Agency (EA) turned 25 years old this April but our waters will not be celebrating. The freshwater aquatic environment is polluted, fragmented and we face a biodiversity crisis with many freshwater species in steep decline or even at risk of extinction, including iconic species such as the Atlantic salmon. We are at a point when business as usual is no longer an option if we are to reverse wilful river damage and habitat destruction. All monitored waters in England are polluted with toxic and persistent chemicals, including insecticides and herbicides. Millions of hours of untreated sewage flows are still entering our rivers over thirty years since privatisation of the water industry. Over-abstraction cripples rivers with low flows, or dries up watercourses completely. Widespread farm-derived pollution continues despite decades of advice and guidance to farmers as to how to avoid it. On farm pollution, at last we have regulations, but if they remain unenforced as currently they are useless. Both Government and regulators alike must stop pretending things look better than the rest of us know they really are. And we NGOs need to have the courage to stop going along with much of this narrative. The system is broken. Our environmental regulator has been made subject to all manner of deregulatory, enforcement-stifling initiatives, all designed to place economic growth above the environment. To make matters worse, Government has starved it of funds, with its dwindling staff confined to barracks and shackled to their desks. No doubt in response to this report, senior management at the EA and DEFRA will spin a response that the EA is performing wonderfully, and that this report is nonsense. Of course, the EA has had some ‘wins’, but the failings far outweigh the successes. So I would ask both the EA and DEFRA to think hard before they respond and honestly answer this question – if not the EA, then who protects and restores our freshwaters and, if not now, when? Those of us on the riverbank – and many of the Environment Agency’s own committed staff – know that it is not delivering the protection and enhancement our watery habitats so desperately need, the public demands – and that the law requires. We get the environment we pay for in money and commitment. We are not spending enough of either and it is simply not good enough. Click here to read the report

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