Home Environment The Usual Ghastly Nonsense About Fresh Water Fish

The Usual Ghastly Nonsense About Fresh Water Fish



Or perhaps the usual ghastly nonsense about an environmental problem. They do this all the time. Take something which really is a problem in certain parts of the world then insist that people must do vastly expensive things in parts of the world where it’s not a problem. Rinse and repeat:

Freshwater fish are under threat, with as many as a third of global populations in danger of extinction, according to an assessment.

Populations of migratory freshwater fish have plummeted by 76% since 1970, and large fish – those weighing more than 30kg – have been all but wiped out in most rivers. The global population of megafish down by 94%, and 16 freshwater fish species were declared extinct last year.

The report by 16 global conservation organisations, called The World’s Forgotten Fishes, said that global populations of freshwater fish were in freefall. The problems are diverse and include pollution, overfishing and destructive fishing practices, the introduction of invasive non-native species, climate change and the disruption of river ecologies. Most of the world’s rivers are now dammed in parts, have water extracted for irrigation or have their natural flows disrupted, making life difficult for freshwater fish.

All of that’s entirely true. It’s also something that is a problem in certain places and not in others. The full report is here. It’s this that is the ghastly:

The poor state of UK rivers means few support as many fish as would be possible if they were better protected, according to the WWF, one of the groups behind Tuesday’s report. Environment Agency data showed last year that no English rivers met the highest chemical standards, and only 15% of UK rivers were rated as having good ecological status. Farm pollution and sewage outflows were among the leading causes of damage. Dave Tickner, WWF’s chief adviser on freshwater, said: “Freshwater habitats are some of the most vibrant on earth, but they are in catastrophic decline. The UK is no exception – wildlife struggles to survive, let alone thrive, in our polluted waters.”

Salmon, which spend part of their life cycle in freshwater ecosystems, have been in sharp decline in the UK since the 1960s, and the European eel is critically endangered. Burbot and sturgeon are extinct in UK waters.

The Guardian revealed the extent of sewage outflows into rivers last year. Water companies discharged sewage into rivers 200,000 times in England in 2019.

WWF called on the UK government to back an emergency recovery plan for rivers and waterways as part of its wider biodiversity and nature recovery targets. Governments around the world are meeting this year to discuss biodiversity, and halting the destruction of the earth’s natural habitats.

“If we are to take this government’s environmental promises seriously, it must get its act together, clean up our rivers and restore our freshwater habitats to good health,” said Tickner. “That means proper enforcement of existing laws, strengthening protections in the environment bill to put UK nature on the path to recovery, and championing a strong set of global targets for recovery of nature, including rivers.”

Near all of that’s bollocks. River water in England is cleaner than it has been in centuries. We’re one of the places that has largely – largely and consistent with not impoverishing ourselves to achieve it – already dealt with the problem. Back in 1950 the Thames had near no life in it at all downstream of Teddington. Now it has salmon – even if rarely.

This is an entirely common tactic too. FAO reports that lots of food rots between farm and fork. The problem is the logistics system in poor countries, they don’t have supermarkets. The claim is then that BOGOF pizzas in Walsall are starving poor Africans.

Plastic in the oceans is indeed a problem, 90% of it (or whatever) is discarded and lost fishing gear. The rest comes from 10 Third World rivers. The claim is that we must stop using plastic bags in Wolverhampton.

Air pollution in Dhaka is a hell of a problem. Therefore everyone in Whitechapel – where the air is cleaner than it has been since 1306 when sea coal started arriving – must be afeared of a diesel lorry.

It’s a consistent and pernicious tactic. Large problems elsewhere that we have largely solved at home show that we at home must spend fortunes on things already largely solved by us and here.

Bugger ’em to be frank about it.



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in British English
expunct (ɪkˈspʌŋkt)
VERB (transitive)
1. to delete or erase; blot out; obliterate
2. to wipe out or destroy

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