The ‘river guardians’ fighting to clean up the world’s most plastic-polluted waterway

I’m knee-deep in the river Tame in Stalybridge, 15 miles east of Manchester. Beside me is Woz Andrew, a local fly-fishing guide. After climbing down a flight of stone steps from road level — hollowed by a century of boots and a remnant of this river’s industrial past — we have made our way slowly across, careful not to trap our ankles between the slippery boulders of the riverbed.

This river has been in the news a lot recently. Research by Manchester University’s department of geography revealed last month that it has the highest recorded concentration of microplastic waste not only in the UK, but in the entire world. With 517,000 particles per square metre, the Tame outscored the Incheon-Gyeonggi beaches in South Korea, Lake Chiusi in Italy and the Pearl river estuary in Hong Kong. The story went everywhere.

I ask Andrew how it feels to be a resident of Tameside and wake up one morning to this dubious accolade. “You see plastic in the trees and on the banks, and all the sanitary products,” he says, “but I had no idea there was that much of it in the riverbed itself — that was a surprise.”He was certainly right about the plastic on the banks. As we’d crossed the river the fisherman in me had spotted a nice tongue of flow coming down the far bank that will have scoured out some depth in the riverbed. This deep water is where the trout are likely to lie this early in the season, so I sink a weighted fly into the flow to see what happens.But as I contemplate this technical challenge, above the watery world of the trout the scrub of the bankside is strewn with waste — from soft drinks bottles to car bumpers and everything in between.

I ask Andrew how the river is fishing. “Go back two or three years and you could catch 60 fish in a four- or five-hour session,” he says. “But more recently it is getting tougher. The numbers of fish are dwindling, the bigger fish aren’t around.”But as I contemplate this technical challenge, above the watery world of the trout the scrub of the bankside is strewn with waste — from soft drinks bottles to car bumpers and everything in between.

I ask Andrew how the river is fishing. “Go back two or three years and you could catch 60 fish in a four- or five-hour session,” he says. “But more recently it is getting tougher. The numbers of fish are dwindling, the bigger fish aren’t around.”

Source : telegraph.co

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