Update on River Spey Fish Mortalities

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Many of you will have seen the recent media interviews given by Roger Knight from the Spey Fishery Board regarding the alarming reports the Board has received of dead adult and juvenile Salmon and Sea Trout in various sections of the river. In addition to the fish mortalities, the Board has also received reports of instances where both humans and dogs have experienced illness following exposure to water from the river.

Samples have been taken from fish for analysis

The Board first learnt of some dead fish being found on the evening of Saturday the 9th of September. More dead fish were reported on Monday the 11th September and we alerted the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), as the regulator of water quality, as well as the Fish Health Inspectorate.

The Fish Health Inspectors arrived on Wednesday morning, 13th September, and took pathology samples from 18 fish that had been kept in the water in nets by ghillies – the procedure requested by the Inspectors. We are very grateful to the ghillies who helped with this.

Reports were also received of a sick child who had swum at Laggan on Saturday, 3 sick Speyside Way walkers who had drunk filtered Spey river water at Aberlour and 3 canoeists who did the same. There were many reports of sick dogs who had swum in/drank from the river. The Board informed SEPA of this, who notified Environmental Health at Moray Council.

SEPA undertook site visits and water sampling activities along the river, testing the pH and dissolved oxygen levels, as well as the water temperature, all of which revealed nothing untoward. Water temperature and pH levels were all within standard parameters. SEPA has also engaged with local distilleries and consulted local Water Treatment Works, all of which  confirmed that there have been no issues with water quality.

The Spey Fishery Board’s staff, meanwhile have been conducting its own thorough investigation, with our staff walking both banks of some 13 miles of the River Spey where dead fish have been reported. They looked for signs of potential contamination, discolouration of the water or riverbanks and any other causes of concern. Water samples were collected too, for analysis by a water chemists. Despite our efforts, nothing so far has been found to indicate any source of potential pollution.

The Spey Fishery Board has also been in touch with Members of the Scottish Parliament representing constituencies through which the River Spey flows. We wanted to inform them of the emerging situation and they have been very helpful liaising with SEPA to ensure a comprehensive and robust response to this incident.

SEPA has now issued a public statement, appealing for information regarding an incidence of dead fish across an 18-mile stretch of the River Spey since Saturday, 9th September:

“SEPA is continuing to work with the Spey Fishery Board and the Fish Health Inspectorate of Marine Scotland regarding the incident.  The Fish Health Inspectorate is the lead body responsible for fish mortalities.

David Ogilvie, Senior Manager for Environmental Performance at the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) said:

“Despite water sampling and ongoing inspections by officers, we’ve found no evidence of a pollution event that would have resulted in fish mortality on this scale. 

“We’re continuing to work closely with partners, including the Fish Health Inspectorate who lead on fish moralities.  The Fish Health Inspectorate will analyse samples in due course.”

We urge anyone with information or reports of suspected pollution or additional fish deaths to contact SEPA either online at sepa.org.uk/report or by calling their Pollution Hotline at 0800 80 70 60.

In the meantime, Spey Fishery Board Director Roger Knight has continued to provide multiple media interviews, being interviewed by STV and BBC television, and speaking to reporters from The Times Scotland, The Press & Journal, The Northern Scot, Northern Sound and the Scottish Daily Mail. This coverage has helped to raise awareness of this event and put pressure on the appropriate regulatory bodies to investigate the situation and we remain unwavering in our commitment to investigating this issue. Thank you for your support.

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