Fish likely to be off the menu if barrage goes ahead
Local populations of migratory fish on their way to and from freshwater spawning sites in the Usk and Wye via the Severn estuary could face extinction if the Severn Barrage goes ahead, according to supporters of the Stop the Barrage NOW campaign.
These include species protected under the EU habitats directive - salmon, allis and twaite shad, sea and river lamprey - as well as the socio-economically important sea trout and endangered eel.
The Severn Rivers Trust and the Salmon and Trout Association have highlighted this issue after examining the Sustainable Development Commission (SDC) report, which concludes that the local populations of all these species could face extinction with the creation of a barrage. A barrage would act as a physical barrier to movement and would also result in adverse environmental and water quality changes.
The environmental changes within the estuary associated with the barrage could also significantly impact important commercial marine species using the estuary, such as bass, mullet, pollock, sole, flounders and sprat.
“The Severn Rivers Trust and Salmon and Trout Association appreciate the need to address climate change and promote green energy,” explains Tony Bostock, Director of the Salmon & Trout Association, and Severn Rivers Trust & Regional Representative.
“However, we do not believe the irreversible damage to vitally important and unique natural habitats and species which would result from a Severn barrage can constitute a sustainable solution.”
The Severn estuary is one of the most important and highly protected sites in Britain. It is vital for migratory fish on their way to freshwater spawning sites in the SAC designated rivers of the Usk and Wye and returning to the sea.
The estuary is also hugely important for its intertidal habitats, which are designated under the EU Birds Directive as key feeding and roosting habitats for a wide variety of bird species. It is now recognised that these habitats are also vital components to a healthy commercial and recreational fisheries, by providing feeding, refuge and nursery areas for juvenile fish.
Intertidal habitats are dynamic environments, which are used by both freshwater and marine fish species, depending on the unique tidal and freshwater flow regimes. In addition these intertidal habitats deliver a range of other invaluable environmental services, such as nutrient and carbon storage, plus flood and storm defences.
The SDC report predicts a barrage would result in the loss of 14,000 hectares of intertidal habitat, through direct or indirect altering of currents. The proposal of mitigating environmental damage through compensatory habitat on this scale is not achievable.
Martin Salter MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Angling Group says: “I understand the need for new sources of renewable energy to meet EU targets, and in the battle against climate change. However, the Severn Tidal Barrage will be devastating for the fish stocks and marine life in the Severn, Wye and Usk catchment. Not only would this be an environmental disaster, but would wipe out the millions of pounds recreational fishing contributes to the economy.
“The creation of the Severn Tidal Barrage runs contrary to all the environmental protection the government is bringing forward in the Marine Bill, and is simply not the right solution to our energy gap".
Bostock concludes “It would be impossible to relocate the hugely successful migratory corridors found in the Severn and its associated river spawning habitats of the Usk and Wye. This would also compromise the genetic integrity of salmon populations, which are genetically unique in different rivers.”
About Stop the Barrage NOW
Stop the Barrage NOW is a coalition of organisations and individuals campaigning to persuade the Government to focus on alternative tidal energy schemes in the estuary. Over the next few months the campaign will be lobbying to persuade the Government and the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) that a barrage is not economically or environmentally viable. Campaigners want any form of barrage to be excluded from a shortlist of proposals to generate renewable energy from the Severn, due to be published in November.
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