Calls for action after River Trent poison spill

TV star Chris Tarrant has this week joined senior figures from within our sport in calling for a ‘landmark punishment’ to be handed down to those responsible for last week’s catastrophic pollution of the River Trent.

Tens of thousands of fish perished when cyanide escaped into the waterway at Stoke-on-Trent, before making its way 30 miles downstream to Yoxall. An Environment Agency electrofishing survey has since revealed that no fish at all remain in the worst-affected areas, with just two small brook lampreys found in a 700m stretch around Stone in Staffs, and some now fear that those areas of river could take five years or more to recover.

There was brighter news further downstream, however, with scores of fish – including barbel to 16lb – being found between Wolseley Bridge and Armitage in Rugeley. 

Following the mixed news, calls for the culprits to receive the most severe penalty on record have surfaced, led by Who Wants to be a Millionaire presenter Chris.

He said: “Some companies whose premises are close to running water have very little comprehension of the full extent of the damage they can cause. I’m all for heavy financial penalties against individuals, but I’m not sure even stiff fines are enough against major companies. I think only custodial sentences will make people realise the enormity of the damage they have caused.”

River Trent expert Lee Swords also believes a spell behind bars would set a much-needed precedent and send a clear message to other would-be polluters.

“A prison sentence needs to be handed to the directors. It is gross negligence on their behalf and the EA must not accept just an average fine and money for restocking. A friend of mine found at least 400 dead mature barbel on one bend of the river alone – it’s disgusting.”

Numerous angling clubs have been affected by the disaster, with many having their stocks wiped out. Fenton DAS chairman Peter Fieldhouse is keen for the authorities to make an example of the company behind the pollution.

“Our stretch of the Trent at Weston, has been dogged by pollution problems for years and everyone has worked hard to restore it. But all the hard work has now been undone. The EA stocked 3,500 fish in January and they are all dead. At the very least, the guilty party should be made to pay hefty compensation.”