You will have seen many disturbing news stories and documentaries highlighting the issue of plastic in our oceans. It’s hard to get the terrible images out of your mind. Whales with stomachs packed full of plastic debris and seabirds dying with their intestines blocked by the waste we cast aside. But what about lakes and rivers? Is plastic impacting fresh water too?
Fish and the ecosystem
Fish are crucial to our ecosystems. When the fish disappear, everything else falls into decline – and quickly. In addition, the nation’s waters are vital to tourism, with anglers making up a significant proportion of visitors to many areas of the country. Plastic in the ocean is headline news but you have to ask yourself how it gets there in the first place. The oceans are the final chapter in a rather unfortunate story.
Plastic waste is everyone’s responsibility and we can all play a part in keeping it out of the water. Anglers are no exception and it is important to note that just those fishing the Thames carry with them an estimated 18 tonnes of plastic each year. That’s a lot of plastic!
Greenpeace to survey rivers
The environmental group Greenpeace are planning to travel throughout the UK, surveying rivers in towns and villages across the country. They will map the problem of plastic pollution in rivers. It is already known that the ecosystems of many rivers are in trouble and this survey could tell us how much trouble. Many anglers will have noticed that fish appear to be getting smaller or disappearing altogether. Plastic is probably one of the reasons that we are losing our fish.
Plastic pollution and coarse fish
Plastic pollution could well be contributing to the declining health of our coarse fish and their dwindling populations, in the same way as it is killing marine species. If plastic is a serious problem, anglers must make themselves a part of the solution. They can prevent plastic from entering rivers, damaging the local environment and travelling out to sea.
Plastic in the Tame
In 2018, scientists discovered shocking levels of plastic in the River Tame in Manchester. They found concentrations of up to half a million plastic particles per square metre which is really rather scary. These findings have inspired Greenpeace to conduct a more comprehensive study of inland waterways. The organisation intends to demand action in the shape of an Environment Bill. They believe this should be a far-reaching piece of legislation for the benefit of wildlife and people.
Leading the fight against plastic
The UK could lead the world in halting the tide of plastic entering the environment. Legislation could massively reduce the volume of plastic being thrown away but a powerful watchdog would be required to enforce the law.
In the meantime, anglers can simply take more care themselves. Why not use only biodegradable bags and seek out products sold in biodegradable packaging? Anglers can take advantage of recycling schemes which turns fishing material into new products. They can reduce the plastic gear that they use and when they find plastic in rivers, they can remove it. Anglers may have been part of the problem but they could be the ones to effect enormous change.