Death on the Wye.

The water in the lower Wye has been green since early July. During the last few weeks I have measured the clarity of the water and found visibility to be down to 50 cms and occasionally, even less.

When we consider that the water weed needs sunlight to grow, and that it is absolutely essential to the ecology of this river yet it was mostly killed off by lack of sunlight last year, whatever ranunculus that might have survived, must surely now be gone. This year the algae bloom has lasted even longer. Some say the worst ever.

Without this water weed all aquatic life will be affected. Fish need the invertebrates that used to live there in the dense weed beds forming the bottom of the food chain. They need the weed to live and to hide from predators, juvenile fish need it for shelter during spates. Swans depend on water weed as their main food source. Dippers and kingfishers are totally dependant on small fish and invertebrates for food. Other birds like ducks, wagtails, martins, swifts etc are all partially dependant on our river being healthy.

For years there have been fewer small chub in our stretch of the Wye. Fewer, dace and grayling. Without the young fish there will be less or no adults in the years to come.

Quite how this effects the spawning and survival of barbel I don’t know but barbel spawn in gravelly shallows and if the gravel is choked with silt it cannot be good news.

I have never seen so many canoes on the river as this year. Wherever I stand on the bank there are usually six canoes in sight. Sometimes dozens. I have no figures to hand but would guess that there are now four times as many canoes on the lower Wye than there were ten years ago. Surely this cannot be allowed to continue, particularly in a SSI area such as ours. Our river Wye has been allowed to become a water theme park. Anglers clash with canoes and rowing boats and the mutual respect between these other river users is diminishing. What is the answer? Alternate days for fishermen and boat users? I cant see that working.

Soon it will be September. Schools will be open again and the holiday season largely over. Temperatures will be cooler deterring the more casual canoeists. We will have our river back again. The algae bloom will be over. And we will see what has survived. I hope my worst fears are not realised.

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