Prove turbines are fish friendly

The Angling Trust has called on the company proposing the world’s first tidal lagoon hydropower scheme in the Severn Estuary to provide independent evidence that the turbines will not kill fish.

In a series of media interviews on Monday this week, the Trust highlighted the concerns of anglers and environmentalists about the potential impact of the proposals on marine and migratory fish and other wildlife.

The Severn Estuary is a home to numerous marine fish such as cod, bass, flounder, rays and sharks and is also a conduit for 25 per cent of the salmon in England & Wales which return to spawn in rivers including the Severn, Wye, Usk, Neath and Taff. Endangered species such as eels, shad and lamprey also use the estuary as a migration route, as well as highly prized sea trout.

Very large numbers of these fish would be caught in these vast lagoons and would have no choice but to pass through the turbines. Many species spend several weeks or months swimming around the estuary before heading upstream (and before they go to sea as juveniles), during which time they would have an unpredictable but significant number of chances of being caught in the lagoons.

The first £1 billion lagoon, in Swansea Bay, involving a six-mile long sea-wall to hold back and then harness tidal flows, has now almost completed the public inquiry stage. This week the company unveiled plans for several more, even larger lagoons around the estuary all of which would be adjacent to the mouths of rivers flowing into the estuary.

Fish Legal, which is united with the Angling Trust, has been helping its member clubs in South Wales take part in the public inquiry and other consultations and its lawyers have yet to receive credible assurances from Tidal Lagoon (Swansea Bay) PLC that the project will be fish-friendly, despite numerous requests.  Last year, Fish Legal and a number of local angling clubs commissioned a report by fisheries scientists APEM Ltd. which confirmed that there were major information gaps and limited levels of confidence in the modelling by the company.

Many of the rivers flowing into the Severn Estuary are designated as Special Areas of Conservation for their fish species and developers are required by law to prove to a very high standard that their actions will not damage those fish populations.  Another company Hafren Power, which brought forward proposals last year for a barrage across the river, similarly failed to provide this proof which was a critical factor in the government’s decision not to offer its support for the plans.  The Angling Trust urges the Lagoon company not to make the same mistake.

Mark Lloyd, chief executive of the Angling Trust & Fish Legal said: “We urge the developers to provide independently-verified evidence that they have found ways to make their turbines safe for fish.”