fly fishing sport fishing freshwater fishing
Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


Fish Legal wins restoration money for the River Coln

After more than six years of waiting, Fish Legal has secured £10,000 in compensation for a devastating fish kill on the River Coln in Gloucestershire for its river-owner member Rupert Lowe. Biolab (UK) Ltd, a manufacturer of swimming pool chemicals, suffered a factory fire in September 2006 that led to a cocktail of chlorine and other hazardous chemicals being released into the river, killing not only the entire wild fish population for 8 miles downstream but even ducks and submerged river plants.

The Environment Agency prosecuted four years later in 2010, and the company pleaded guilty to environmental offences and was fined £66,000, a record amount for a river pollution event. Mr Lowe and his family and friends had fished the river for 20 years for its exclusively wild brown trout, an increasingly rare feature of southern chalk streams and limestone rivers like the Coln, which until the pollution was regarded as one of the best trout streams in Gloucestershire.

A wild trout population will take (at the minimum and under the best conditions) five years to regain its full ‘population structure’ of both the oldest and largest, mature fish as well as the annual groups of juveniles from which the adults grow on. After the pollution the young fish must at first have come from eggs spawned from probably just a few mature trout, which must have migrated in from outside the polluted area.

The only good news about this deadly chlorine spill is that after the ‘total kill’ the chemical will have quite rapidly dissipated into largely harmless compounds, leaving behind few long-term chemical impacts – even though the trout and other species which were completely wiped out may take years to recover fully.

Andrew Kelton, solicitor at Fish Legal, said: “We are glad to have been able to obtain compensation for our member for the complete loss over the past six years of what had been a treasured wild trout fishery. We hope that this money will help him restore and maintain the habitat, on the faith that the wild trout and invertebrates like mayflies will now return. There is no guarantee, but experience elsewhere suggests that trout are quite resilient and can recover after a gross pollution of this kind given time, and so long as there is no repeat.”

He added: “It is interesting that Mr Lowe appears to be the only river owner who took a legal claim against this pollution, even though he owns just one mile of the 8 miles affected. I think that underlines that it is important for fishery owners to join Fish Legal, who can take on pollution claims on their behalf – without a costly solicitor’s bill at the end. Although it is perhaps natural to bury one’s head in the sand about the risk of pollution, in its many and varied forms it is from our experience an all-too common event.”

Martin James Fishing