Record numbers of salmon and sea trout in English rivers

Record numbers of salmon and sea trout are being found in iconic English rivers, say the Environment Agency, which has announced that river water quality in England has improved for the 20th consecutive year

Over 70% of rivers are now graded as ‘very good’ or ‘good’ under the organisation’s own classification. Cleaner rivers have resulted in the recovery of British wildlife once thought to have vanished forever in some regions.

50 years ago, no salmon or sea trout were seen in the River Tyne, but already this year, more than 15,000 have been recorded migrating up river – the highest since records began. The number of sea trout in the Thames has also hit a new level; many fish species in the lower reaches of the river were wiped out in the 1830s due to pollution. The River Mersey meanwhile, once said to be the most polluted river in Europe, is the cleanest it has been for a century.

The Environment Agency says the improvements have been achieved through investment by water companies, tougher action on polluters, reduction in discharges from industry and businesses, changing farming practices and thousands of local projects such as building fish and eel passes throughout the country.

Conservation groups have acknowledged the improvement of water quality but point out that three quarters of rivers in England and Wales still fall below European water-quality targets.

The Environment Agency announced earlier this year plans to clean up an additional 9,500 miles of river – the distance between England and Australia by 2015.

Dr. Paul Leinster, chief executive of the Environment Agency, said: “Rivers are at their cleanest for over a century and we are working hard to ensure this trend continues. Tackling discharges from sewage treatment works, industry, agriculture and urban sources, such as roads is essential to achieve better water quality.” He added that other organisations, such as local voluntary groups, rivers trusts and wildlife groups also have important roles to play in making the country’s rivers even better for people and wildlife.