An infestation of river weed has postponed Tacklefest , cancelled the Peterborough City Rowing Club Junior Regatta, and anglers report the river is unfishable. Ken Wade a Peterborough angler describes the problem. His interview is followed by an interview with a man from the Environment Agency who puts their side of the story, but doesn’t really begin to address the root of the problem. Broadcast at 07:22 and 08:37 respectively on Thursday July 1st in the Paul Stainton Breakfast Show on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire.
PAUL: The River Nene is being overtaken by weeds. The hot dry weather is the perfect condition apparently for river weeds to thrive. Fishermen say it’s now almost impossible to fish, and the angling event Tacklefest has moved from next month to September because of it. Peterborough angler Ken Wade is on the phone. Morning Ken.
KEN: Good morning to you Paul.
PAUL: How bad is it?
KEN: Pretty bad I’m afraid. We’ve had some problems for the last couple of years, so I don’t see how anybody can hide behind the weather we’ve had. But it has gone particularly bad this year, and we made the move some time ago from July to September basically because of the state of the river through the summer months.
PAUL: You’re saying then that it’s not just the weather that’s causing the weeds.
KEN: No it’s not. We’ve had this, it’s been a continual problem for the last three or four years. It was particularly bad last year. We were spending hours upon hours raking weed out of the Nene so we could get this prestigious event run on the River Nene, but it looks as if we’re going to be spending even more time now on the river trying to get it ready for what is really probably one of the biggest team events in the country.
PAUL: What does it look like at the minute on the river? Because I was there a couple of weeks ago for the Dragon Boat. I didn’t really see any weed, but then again I was in the middle of the river I suppose.
KEN: Quite Yes.
PAUL: Going very fast.
KEN: If you’re not actually looking for it , initially it doesn’t look too bad at all, but once you get a couple of feet below the surface, basically the river is literally full of weed and it’s almost impossible to fish. The Environment Agency came down last year and did a lot of weed cutting, and I’m sure they’ll have another go again this year. Basically it’s skimming the top of the weed, and there’s an inherent problem now on the River Nene with the weed. I dont really know, I don’t think anybody really knows how it’s come about, but for the last three or four years it’s certainly been pretty bad. And it looks, if it continues, I think the Nene as a majestic top-quality river for fishing is almost finished.
PAUL: Can the Environment Agency do something about it?
KEN: Well they certainly put a lot of time and effort in last year after we complained quite bitterly, and I do hear that weed cutters are on the river again this year. But in all honesty it goes beyond weed cutting. There is more problems than weed cutting. They can take the top of the weed off, and it will make it, certainly it will help the boaters, but it won’t improve the fishing at all.
PAUL: Do they need to drag the river? Is that what you’re saying?
KEN: Basically I think that’s probably what it is. The river needs dredging out. It’s silted up in a lot of areas, certainly above Peterborough, through the town centre, through the Embankment I think you’ll find if you go down and have a look at that. Within the next few weeks it’ll be almost, I won’t say you could walk across it, that would be silly, but it’s certainly going to be bank-to-bank weed.
PAUL: That is a frightening prospect. Not only is Tacklefest’s future in doubt, but if it continues, fishing per se?
KEN: Absolutely. People forget that the Peterborough and District Angling Association is one of the biggest and oldest clubs in the country. They rely on people buying their day-tickets and buying their season tickets, and if you can’t fish then there’s going to be no sale of tickets, and eventually there’ll be no Peterborough Angling Club, and that’d be a disaster for the town.
PAUL: It certainly would. Ken, we’ll get on to the Environment Agency and find out what they propose to do about all this. Ken Wade, who says the River Nene is in danger of becoming a no-go area for fishermen.
PAUL: Now the River Nene is being overtaken by weeds. The hot dry weather is perfect conditions for them of course. Fishermen say it’s now almost impossible to fish. And the angling event Tacklefest has moved from next month to September because of it. Earlier we spoke to Peterborough angler Ken Wade. He said the weeds could kill off the Nene for fishermen. (TAPE)
KEN: … there’s an inherent problem now on the River Nene with the weed. I dont really know, I don’t think anybody really knows how it’s come about, but for the last three or four years it’s certainly been pretty bad. And it looks, if it continues, I think the Nene as a majestic top-quality river for fishing is almost finished. (LIVE)
PAUL: Well our reporter Carol Carman is down on the banks of the Nene, scaring the fish, near the Key Theatre. How bad is it Carol? (OB)
CAROL: Well I showed them a picture of you, and yes, that’s scared them all out. It doesn’t look so bad actually. It’s a beautiful morning down here on the banks of the Nene. There’s a few little big flat surface weeds like water lilies, and over the other side I can see, it’s either weed or algae on the surface. But I’m joined by John Oggett(?) from the Environment Agency. Now Paul you did say that the hot dry weather, perfect conditions for these weeds to thrive, John, is that the reason and what are you doing about it?
JOHN: Well that’s put it very succinctly. It is the weather conditions that’s creating the degree of problem that we have at the moment. Weed always grows during the summer months. That’s its habit. What it needs to thrive is really three conditions. One is sunlight, good good sunlight. One is warmth. And the other is nutrients. And we’re seeing a combination of that at the moment with obviously the lovely weather we’re enjoying at the moment, and we are seeing some very warm temperatures. And rivers like the Nene are quite slow-flowing. They run through a lot of agricultural land, so there’s a lot of nutrient that comes off the land and into the river. And that helps to promote the high levels of weed growth that we are seeing.
CAROL: So what are you doing about it?
JOHN: Well actually we spend over a million pounds in our Northern area every year clearing aquatic weeds, and the Nene is one of those rivers where we are carrying out that work at the moment. There are a lot of rivers that we have to work on. We are working on the Nene further upstream at the moment, from Northampton down. We’ve got our weed boats out operating at the moment. And we have a range of different ways of dealing with water weed. Mechanical cutting is one of them, and that’s on rivers like the Nene, quite large wide rivers. Then we have a fleet of weed boats which actually go out and cut the weed and remove it from the channel.
CAROL: Now our listener Malc says we let the Environment Agency know last year about these weeds. Why do we pay our rod licence if they’re not going to keep it clean?
JOHN: Well weeds will grow every year. That’s just their habit.That’s their nature. As far as the fishing licence is concerned that doesn’t actually fund the work that we’re carrying out by clearing the weed. we’re doing it primarily to manage flood risk within the river channels. There are other benefits that river users see from the work that we do, fishermen amongst them. And when we do the work, when we’re planning the timing of the work, we always try and work with other river users, fishermen, boat users, particularly if we’re aware that they have any big events coming up, then we will try and time our work to get maximum benefit.
CAROL: Our other listener Ken says if something’s not done about the weeds it could be the end of fishing on the Nene.
JOHN: Well I hope that doesn’t happen. Fishing is very important for the Nene. It is a very famous river. It’s got a long pedigree of really good fishing, so I hope that that isn’t the case.
CAROL: Now as we stand here of course there are some boats on the river. Are the weeds affecting the boats?
JOHN: Well certainly if the weed becomes very very thick then it will hamper boat traffic. What generally tends to happen is that the weed gets trapped in the prop., in the propellor of the boat, and the boat has to stop and free the weed off before it can make any progress. So it certainly doesn’t help navigation. And as I say we are working further up the river at the moment in clearing weed where we have got really really bad problems.
CAROL: John ? from the Environment Agency thank you very much for joining us this morning. And of course talking of things all weedy and slimy, back to you Paul in the studio. (STUDIO)
PAUL: Touche touche Miss Carman touche. Very nice outline. Very big anger as well from fishermen about the state of the Nene this morning.