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Teifi incident is a stark reminder of pollution threat from farming

Saturday's massive slurry spill will affect the river for a decade

Over 1,000 fish were seen dead, but many more will have perished unseen.
Over 1,000 fish were seen dead, but many more will have perished unseen.

The devastating news of the pollution of the Teifi highlights an increasing threat to our rivers in graphic form. With over seven miles of prime river wiped out of all salmon, sea trout and brown trout – this is the section where several youth internationals have been held, and which also contains the memorial stone to Moc Morgan – and the fact that the river was discoloured and smelling even 20 miles downstream shows the extent of this particular incident. 1,000 dead fish were counted, but as ever with a fish-kill of this type in a discoloured river, the numbers of unseen and uncounted dead will be far, far higher. No pollution ever comes at a convenient time, but this has occurred just as all the Teifi's adult spawning stock would have been on the redds, laying their eggs… and this at the time when stocks in the Teifi are at critically low levels historically. It is highly likely that all eggs, fish and invertebrates will have been killed on this disastrous, slurry-inflicted Saturday; one of the blackest days in Teifi history. In effect, the Teifi fish stocks will have to recover from scratch.

How and why did this occur? Why was the slurry so close to the Teifi? How could so much of it get into the river? Unfortunately, slurry is constantly leaching into our rivers on farms countrywide, but little is being done about it, either with respect to the leakages, or the siting and management of slurry units. For many years, FF&FT has been warning of the slow demise of another once-great river, the Eden, and again farming is implicated. On the Eden, the expansion of dairy farming and its associated slurry - either spread on the fields, or through leakage from diary units – continues to encroach into the watercourses that feed the Eden in an unregulated and uncontrolled manner. The Teifi incident comes on the back of a growing tide of major pollution incidents which emanate from farms. Indeed, government figures show that farming is now the top cause of major pollution incidents and also the principal cause of the general malaise affecting the majority of rivers. For years now, the Angling Trust has been calling for tougher regulation of farmers, as incipient agricultural pollution eats away at the production, capacity and quality of our rivers. Yet, as the industry, which receives over £3 billion in tax hand-outs every year from government, invests and intensifies, so the more slurry, pesticides, fertiliser and soil finds its way into our watercourses. Why is corresponding environmental compliance not part of each cash payment? Farmers, currently, are not looking after our land and water courses in the way that we expect them to - so why should we subsidise them?

The Teifi incident serves as a stark warning that farming replaced heavy industry as the scourge of our rivers many years ago, and needs tighter regulation. Now. Unfortunately, for the Teifi, it's too late. One day's fateful incident means a decade of hard work and heartache.

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