Photograph by Steve Barnett

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Where the fish are again...

The bonny BBC put out a very misleading report recently about how wonderful hydropower is on the Derbyshire Wye and with a big fat slot dedicated to encouraging anyone to set up hydropower schemes of their own.  The spot made no real reference to the constant and enormous impact that turbines have on fish populations.  The debate is being weighted in the media for the schemes and how much money they can get for their owners with almost no account being made of the needs of the rivers and their inhabitants.  The attitude from the hydropower lobby is universally that the turbines have precedence and the rivers can have what little is left.

There is a voice crying in the wilderness that is trying to get some respite for the rivers and the creatures that depend on them.  It is the Angling Trust.  BUT the problems are enormous and the underfunded Angling Trust and its legal arm Fish Legal are engulfed in cases from all over the country.  The problem is widespread but anglers' support to the Angling Trust, for all sorts of reasons, is somewhat sparse.  There are reckoned to be around 4 million of us but even if that is a miscalculation there are certainly 2 million of us.  Imagine what could be done if 2 million anglers became individual members (not club members that's a cop out) and the Trust and Fish Legal were funded accordingly.  The team would have the resources to tackle this, the biggest threat to fisheries in the UK, and maybe we could get our governement to listen and realise that funding the grant rush for hydropower is a big, big mistake.

Hydro Power Perch Picture Courtesy of The Angling Trust

If you know of a hydropower scheme near you just count to ten - one, two , three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine and TEN.  There you are!  A fish has just been killed in it...  Now count to ten again!  There you are another fish is dead...  Now consider this - that is going on all day and night! 

Fish move upstream to breed but they cannot if they follow their instincts and swim up the strongest flow because that instinct leads them to the turbine and not the spawning grounds upriver.  Combine this with the deaths of fish taking the easiest route down river from where they were born upriver and it is not hard to see how the dippers, dabchicks, herons, ospreys, otters and yes, we anglers too, are going to have a harder time of it thanks to the lunacy of the tax funded vandalism called hydropower.

If you want to do something about this, the first step is to write to your MP expressing your concerns.  The next is to join the Angling Trust and support Fish Legal so that a co-ordinated approach can be made to the government.  Whatever, please do something, anything, if you think it might help.

Regular Rod


  1. That picture makes me sick to my stomach. Money is the root of all evil. Unfortunately the fish and the rest of the things that depend on the fish are the ones who pay the final costly price. Hopefully they take a second look and something changes when it comes to that. Horrible thing those poor fish. TightLines.

  2. Its certainly a horrible picture, but can you tell us where the picture was taken, and what type of turbine they have been through? I'd suggest that people who are concerned to reduce carbon dioxide emissions are also concerned about fish, but its difficult to make an intelligent debate about the best way to cut emissions if you don't know what systems produce particular problems. Thanks.

  3. The picture is posted with permission from the Angling Trust

    The problem is that the people who are commercially engaged in hydro power are not concerned about fish or any other wildlife.

    They are concerned only about making money and like any other single interest group are very zealous and single minded. The attitude is one of the hydro scheme must be given whatever it needs and the rivers and their inhabitants can have what is left over after the hydro plant has been satisfied. This turns out in actual practice to be next to nothing.

    The carbon dioxide emissions argument is fast being dropped by the hydro lobby as closer examination shows that there is no such thing to be gained by using hydro power.

    The carbon debt created by the manufacture, transportation, installation and management of each turbine is so high that there is considerable doubt that it ever gets repaid in the thirty year planned lifetimes of the turbines. Couple that with the destroyed Ranunculus fluitans in the depleted reaches that had silently been fixing carbon for thousands of years and you can see that the 'carbon' argument actually gravitates against hydro schemes.

    In the UK this heartbreaking mess is currently being funded by tax payers!

    Hydro is not green. Hydro is blood red with big black carbon shadows...

    Regular Rod

  4. By the way... In England and Wales, the Environment Agency, in direct breach of its legal obligations, is actually licencing hydro power schemes to kill fish!

    (cut and paste the link into your browser)

    Such is the power of the hydro lobby!

    Regular Rod

  5. Yes, there are commercial interests and their business is to be single minded and install hydro plant, and yes, the energy saving from a small or medium sized hydro scheme is tiny compared to a nuclear or fossil fuel power station. But as the Angling Trust Position Statement says not all schemes are detrimental to fishing and surely no scheme needs to be badly run. In Hexham the proposed scheme is a community project which is intended to be built alongside a new fish ladder. There is a considerable local economic benefit from tourism by anglers, and while there are people who have a strong interest in promoting renewable energy there are plenty of people who recognise that you have to balance the environmental costs and benefits. The same is true of wind power, which is held back most effectively by the MOD which doesn't want its low level training sites affected (unless you accept the line about wind turbines affecting air traffic control). I'm told that the picture you have of the sadly mangled Perch is from Holland and that the type of turbine they have been through is unknown, can you give some detail? The Archimedes screw proponents say that this type of turbine can not damage fish, they can swim right through. If there is substantiated evidence that this is not true I'd be very grateful to see it. At the moment I remain in favour of fish and fishing, and renewable energy, and a balanced approach. Its good that people are arguing the case on either side with passion, but those in the middle need facts as well as rhetoric. Good luck with calling the EA to account, they are the people who should be guiding us, and making sure that schemes are properly managed.

  6. The momentum that has been gained by commercial interests is terrifying in its scale to anyone who pays attention to life in and around our rivers and streams. The websites promoting hydro and encouraging folks to get together and pay into a scheme of their own show just how dangerous this threat to the environment is.

    As I commented on the Hexham project you need to make some very meticulous safeguards if your hydro power scheme is to be anything other than a bringer of death and destruction to the river and its inhabitants.

    You need at least a decent screen to prevent immature fish from entering the turbine. The holes need to be no more than 3mm x 3mm and the screen needs to be angled sufficiently to prevent fish being sucked against it. The usual 10mm screen is no use, as my profile picture shows.

    The fact that the rule about screens has been relaxed for the benefit of the hydro lobby shows just how twisted the remit of the EA has become. Power stations are compelled to have screens with grids of no more than 3mm x 3mm. Hydro schemes are being allowed 10mm x 10mm or even greater. What is different about the fish? Nothing at all. What is different about the generating plants? One is PC and so must be allowed free rein.

    Your bywash needs to be greater than the amount of water coming out of the turbine or else fish will run up to the turbine instead of running up the river.

    That means, in your case, that the flow of water over the fish ladder must be greater than the flow of water through your turbine or else many of the migrating fish will run the wrong way and end up wasting their energy and breeding potential in the tail race to your turbine instead of running up the fish ladder.

    If you fail to do these things then your community scheme will indeed be BADLY RUN. Over a few short years, when the old fish have died off, there will be no juveniles to replace them. This will result in a serious break in the river's food chain and an inevitable ecological disaster with a terrible impact on the fish eating birds and mammals. That is dabchicks, goosanders, cormorants, herons, visiting ospreys and the struggling to return otters.

    The trouble with Community projects is that no one is actually held to be responsible for any downside...

    Regular Rod