Rachel Gilmour, parliamentary candidate for Tiverton and Minehead, has demanded answers from South West Water to stem the catastrophic decline in fish in our local rivers.

The Liberal Democrat candidate and Mid Devon councillor met with local fishermen to discuss their concerns around water quality and fish populations in local rivers.

Cllr Gilmour organised and attended a meeting at The Hartnoll Hotel in Bolham earlier this month where they expressed concerns about the decrease in salmon numbers. Figures show that while 1,000 salmon were caught between Cowley Bridge in Exeter and The Carnarvon Arms near Dulverton in 2000, just two were caught in 2023.

Cllr Gilmour said: “Invasive cray fish species are destroying the invertebrates that fish feed on. This extends to 22 million according to research.

“Pesticides and anti-flea ointments from dogs left in the river water also harm the water quality. One solution the fishermen recommend are 10 metre rough grass “buffer zones” along rivers, which farmers and shoots would pay for as part of Countryside Stewardship schemes.

“Pollution has also increased as the rivers become less diluted. The 30km square Mares Scheme on Exmoor removed 20 million tons of water from the Exe. Despite the contract that South West Water is signed up to – to move 90 million tons of water from Wimbleball Reservoir – it has failed to do so, further reducing dilution of the river waters.”

Following her meeting with the local fishermen, Cllr Gilmour has written to South West Water in strong terms; requiring them to answer 10 questions which were drawn up with the assistance of the fishermen.

Cllr Gilmour added: “The River Exe was Ted Hughes’ favourite fishing river. He eulogised it in his 1986 “A poem for the nation”. It is deeply troubling that its banks, its water quality and its fishing stocks are in such an appalling state. 

“This is an entirely man-made problem. It’s a combination of greed that puts share holders’ pay ahead of the environment on the part of South West Water, and wilful neglect, along with The Environment Agency, has led us to where we are today.

“As John Ruskin said, “A nation’s wealth is its landscapes”. As your Liberal Democrat MP I will look after this wealth and seek to increase it.”

Share This