A Dying River? The state of the River Usk

November 2021

Afonydd Cymru has today received an independent report which assesses the current status of the River Usk. It is one of only seven Rivers in Wales designated as a Special Area of Conservation where key species are protected by law. The report catalogues the decline in many of its iconic species, including that of the otter and the salmon, and describes how the river has deteriorated and become degraded despite the legislation and plans designed to protect it.

The author is Guy Mawle, an Independent Fisheries Consultant with a distinguished career in fisheries management and economics. Guy lives close to the river and has observed it over many years. His conclusion is:

My report shows that much of the wildlife of the River Usk is degraded and deteriorating. The reasons for this decline include sewage effluent, bad agricultural practices and climate change. If it is to be restored or even resilient there will have to be a sea change in strategy, resources, regulation and management”.

Gail Davies-Walsh, CEO for Afonydd Cymru, states:“This landmark report is a testament to the hard work, dedication and passion that Guy has for the River Usk and his vast knowledge of it. It provides clear evidence that this river is in serious trouble and that those responsible for its protection and management are failing to carry out their statutory duties.

Sadly, the work of the Rivers Trusts in Wales is recording that the problems that Guy has highlighted on the River Usk are common to many other Welsh rivers. Just a year ago, the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales called on all public bodies including Welsh Government to start taking urgent action at a pace and scale to combat the loss of biodiversity. This report highlights the loss of biodiversity on the Usk which cannot be ignored and Afonydd Cymru will be calling on the Welsh Government and Natural Resources Wales to address the nature crisis on the Usk and Wales’s other rivers as a matter of urgency.”