PROTECTED Atlantic salmon faces being wiped out within six years due to pollution levels in one of Britain’s longest rivers.
Campaigners in the Wye Salmon Association say their lowest catch numbers have been recorded since their records began in 1956.
The angling group on the River Wye – the fourth longest river in Britain – is calling for radical scientific action to save the species.
They want gene banking, captive breeding and cryogenic preservation science to be used to ensure the fish does not become extinct.
The River Wye in Monmouthshire (Image: Wales News Service)
The river runs 155 from mid-Wales to the Severn Estuary – but at Ross on Wye on the England-Wales border it regularly turns green due to high levels of algae.
In May, the river’s status was downgraded to “unfavorable decline” by Natural England.
The river was reclassified due to a fall in the numbers of species such as salmon and native crayfish.
Both the Wye, and the River Lugg which runs into it, are Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) which should afford them the highest environmental protections.
Campaigners believe that intensive farming and sewage pollution have caused algal blooms which deprive wildlife of oxygen.
Dead fish in the River Wye (Image: Wales News Service)
Stuart Smith of the Wye Salmon Association, said time is running out
He said: “Based on current numbers we are a mere five or six years away from total extinction of salmon.”
Their records show that 225 salmon were caught and released back to the River Wye in 2023.
In 2016, anglers caught more than 500 fish and were confident that the species was returning in ‘healthy numbers’.
“Forget more research, what we need are urgent solutions and we need them now. A six-month delay could be too late,” said Mr Smith.
Campaign groups, including Save The Wye, have held street and river protests calling for more action.
Last month, a judge granted a judicial review into the way the Environment Agency enforces agricultural pollution laws following a legal bid by River Action.
In May, former Environment Secretary Thérèse Coffey met farmers and councilors in Hereford to discuss the declining state of the River Wye.
Jesse Norman, the Conservative MP for Hereford and South Herefordshire, resigned as a transport minister on 12 November saying he wanted to concentrate on the plight of the river.
the River Wye full of green algae (Image: Wales News Service)
“I have felt quite constrained by the rules of office in what I can say publicly, notably in relation to the urgent need to clean up the River Wye,” he said.
On Sunday, Herefordshire Council is holding a Rivers Conference to bring together farmers and campaigners.