Upper Conwy Surveying Project

Trust uncovers environmental problems in the uplands.

A survey carried out by the Trust on the upper Afon Conwy during September has produced worrying evidence about the health of the river which it is hoped will be investigated further as a matter of urgency by various organisations.

The decision to carry out this recent survey was taken following one carried out by the Trust in 2009 and by APEM; a leading environmental consultancy specialising in freshwater and marine ecology in 2010. Both of these surveys established that there was a low number of brown trout and salmon in this section of the river and the purpose of the latest survey was to compare results in the hope there had been some improvements since then.

For the latest survey, five sites from those surveyed in 2009 and 2010 were selected covering sections of the river from upstream of Ysbyty Ifan to where it passes under the A5 near Pentre Foelas and using electro fishing techniques, fish caught were counted, measured and details recorded. Although the abundance of salmon parr was higher than previously recorded in three of the sites surveyed, the number of trout counted was worryingly low and the two sites surveyed upstream of Ysbyty Ifan were practically fishless with only a minnow and one small trout recorded.

Commenting about the results of the latest survey, Dr Nigel Milner, a member of the Trust’s operations group and associate senior fisheries biologist at the School of Biological Sciences at Bangor University, who took part in the survey said: “The low number of brown trout in the upper Afon Conwy and the total absence of fry at all but one site surveyed, coupled with lack of invertebrates and the extensive growth of algae is worrying and indicates a serious problem that’s getting worse and requires some focused effort to find the cause.”

Commenting further, Dr Milner added: “Rather than speculate at this stage, the Trust’s intention now is to discuss these results with Natural Resources Wales, the School of Biological Sciences at Bangor University and with the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Bangor. It also intends to analyse the other data already available about aspects of the aquatic ecology of the river and depending on the results, will recommend that a more intensive programme should be proposed to investigate the ecological functioning of the upper river to try to arrest its decline.

The survey was carried out in collaboration with Natural Resources Wales and a copy of the report has already been sent to NRW for its comments and recommendations. The Trust is now awaiting a response from NRW as well as the School of Biological Sciences and the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology before a decision can be made about what action can be taken to try to arrest the river’s decline.

The survey was carried out by Trust members: Dr Nigel Milner; Roger Thomas; Chris White; and Pierino Algieri.

Reporting an environmental incident

To report an environmental incident such as suspected poaching, pollution or wildlife crime, the dumping of hazardous or industrial waste and illegal abstraction from watercourses etc, call Natural Resources Wales’ incident hotline on 0300 065 3000 (24 hour service).

Afonydd Cymru
The Rivers Trust
Natural Resources Wales
The Wild Trout Trust