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Natural Resources Wales Failing to Protect Welsh Fisheries

Natural Resources Wales Failing to Protect Welsh Fisheries

Fish Legal, representing its member club the Seiont Gwyrfai & Llyfni Anglers’ Society, has issued another judicial review against Natural Resources Wales (NRW) as part of a long-running campaign to save the endangered Arctic charr at Llyn Padarn, North Wales.

NRW, the environmental regulator for Wales, is accused for the second time of failing to live up to its legal obligations when deciding which operators are accountable for damage to the endangered fish and its protected habitat at the lake. The lake and the fish are notified as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (or SSSI), and form part of the Anglers’ Society’s fishing.

This new legal action follows on from a previous successful judicial review claim against NRW in the same case, concluded in May 2014. The anglers successfully argued that NRW had failed to apply the law correctly and so had not fully taken into account damage caused to the protected charr and its habitat from sewage pollution and other activities. Fish Legal alleges that NRW has made some of the very same mistakes for a second time around, as well as identifying new significant illegalities present in the regulator’s most recent attempt at managing damage to the environment at the lake.

The Angler’s Society that Fish Legal represents strongly believes that Dŵr Cymru / Welsh Water, and the nearby Dinorwig Power Station operated by First Hydro, should be held more fully liable for past and ongoing damage to the protected site, and that NRW should have done much more (much sooner) to protect the fishery. One of the major problems is perceived to be a lack of fisheries expertise and resources at the regulator, as well as conflicting internal priorities.

NRW has told Dŵr Cymru / Welsh Water that it is liable for only a part of the overall damage, in having caused a toxic algal bloom in 2009, but has failed to go further than that despite treated and untreated sewage inputs still causing problems, and a major decline in charr populations being acknowledged.

As things are currently, the tax-payer is left with the major expense for dealing with the damaged environment.

William Rundle, Head Solicitor at Fish Legal, said:

“We are very disappointed to be in this position again, of having to sue the regulator because it just can’t get it right. 3 years on from our notification of damage to them (itself part of a much longer campaign), we are still having to deal with major errors in its decision-making. These errors mean big businesses that make significant profits out of their activities can do so without being held fully accountable to the public for damage we have seen caused to the habitat of a rare and endangered fish. NRW is failing fisheries here; it is failing to protect this precious environment effectively and implement the ‘polluter pays principle’.”

Huw Hughes, Secretary of the Anglers’ Society, said:

“It's beyond belief that since 1992 we have been trying to get the regulating authorities to acknowledge, and then decisively act on, the serious damage that we have seen from the activities of Welsh Water's sewerage discharges and the Hydro Power Companies' (now First Hydro) water releases on the waters of Llyn Padarn and the river Seiont. We have fished this area for decades and believe their operations have driven the Arctic charr, a rare native fish of the lake, onto the brink of extinction.”

He further said:

“Perhaps it does not matter all that much to National Resources Wales nor their masters the Welsh Government if the charr slips into oblivion. But in actual fact it does matter to everybody else that this relic of the ice age thrives amongst us as a beacon to the pristine environment that we all strive for. So come on NRW get your finger out and do what's expected of you - sort this out now.”

Contact: Fish Legal - Eastwood House | 6 Rainbow Street | Leominster | HR6 8DQ | Tel: 01568 620447

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