Unprecedented fish kills linked to pollution this year


by Freddie Sandford |
Published on

The direct impact of sewage spills on angling was laid bare this week, as data revealed a 400 per cent increase in deaths of English fish stocks over the previous year. Environment Agency (EA) figures show they rocketed from 42,070 in 2022/23 to 216,135 in 2023/24.

The escalation has been linked directly to sewage pollution, and Southern Water and Thames Water stand out as being responsible for the majority of the spills. What’s more, it’s likely that these figures paint an overly positive image, as studies by Fish Legal show that investigation reports are not provided for more than half of these incidents.

“These figures are likely to underestimate the true impact of sewage pollution on wildlife,” said Penny Gane, Head of Practice at Fish Legal.

“We’ve found that the EA rarely follows up with a fish survey to assess the full impact of pollution, relying instead on counting dead fish when its officers do attend.”

Now, the Angling Trust is calling for urgent and immediate government intervention.

“This unprecedented rise in fish kills is a clear indicator of the deteriorating health of our waterways,” said Stuart Singleton-White, the Trust’s Head of Campaigns.

“If pollution from a private company were to kill over 200,000 birds, there would be national outrage. The water companies responsible for these leaks need to be brought under special measures immediately before our rivers are irreparably damaged.”

In stark contrast to the rise in fish kills, the number of prosecutions brought against water companies by the EA fell from 166 to 33 between 2018 and 2022.

“We need to see more EA inspections and prosecutions following pollution incidents to help restore our waterways to a state where wildlife can thrive,” Stuart concluded.

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Fish kills are on the rise.
Fish kills are on the rise.
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