Timebomb ticking in river

Plastic rubbish is increasing in one of Yorkshire’s main rivers says an expert.

Self taught fresh water ecologist Mark Barrow, who spends his spare time filming fish in the River Wharfe at Wetherby, warns the problem is a sinister ticking timebomb.

“I have been filming underwater in the river for well over 20 years and over the years the problem of plastic and garbage in our river has drastically increased with 2018 being probably the worst year for seeing this sinister ticking time bomb,” said the 48-year-old Wetherby resident.

“In 2018 in our amazing summer I spent many a day filming in the river. What struck me the most was the amount of waste coming down stream from chip cartons to carrier bags to plastic bottles and for good measure a used nappy.

“Not all this is deposited at Wetherby, some gets washed down stream, some is strewn on the river banks, which is not only unsightly but when the river rises this then gets taken in to the main current.”

Mark, who films fish from Barbel through to Pike and Grayling and the critically endangered European Eel in the Wharfe, said the problem is growing.

“In January 2019 I went filming in the river and actually stopped filming and placed the cameras bankside and went back in to collect the rubbish being washed down stream plus the rubbish caught on branches and rocks underwater, items such as carrier bags, plastic bottles, cartons, foam, plastic coverings and fishing line.”

Mark is on the committee of Wetherby Angling Club which he says encourages anglers to remove rubbish before they start fishing.

But he added that his task as a film maker is being spoilt because plastic gets in the shots of the fish he is recording.

Mark added: “I must stress that it is not a constant flow of large plastics and certainly don’t want to panic people into thinking we have a plastic river.

“But the situation is slowly getting worse, if you take into account the small areas I film in that have plastic then times that by the length of the river then take into account other rivers in Yorkshire, then nationally you realise how much plastic is in our rivers.

“This does not even take into account micro plastics which are even more deadlier as these can and will end up in fish, even the caddis fly larvae which make cases to live in are now being filmed with plastics in on their cases.”

He added: “The main reason for a lot of my filming this year will be to finish of the filming of the critically endangered European Eel which had to be stopped last year due to plastic.

“Hopefully I can finish of the film and then promote the species and the plight this fish is facing.”

Mark, who often give talks about his filming in the Wetherby area, said it is time for action to stop plastic litter in the river.

“Id like to see nets on outlet pipes to collect anything that may end up in the river, more done on how to make plastic more reusable and end up with no single use plastics.”

“The rivers of any country are the veins of it - clog them up and nature stops working.

“Along with the loss of insect life that is being reported, we really are facing an up hill battle to correct this but it can be done.

“We need peole to think before they discard plastic and actually think about what to do with it.”