To be fair, the old Clyde is cleaner than it was, at least to the eye. All the old heavy industry that used to clog the shores of the river all the way up to Glasgow and beyond has mostly long gone, so it would be strange if it were not. But the clearer waters hide something else.
There have been reasons to be optimistic. Some iconic species like otter, seal and porpoise can been seen out in the estuary. We have even been visited by killer whales, and small numbers of wild Salmon have been finding their way up river for over a decade now.
But all that contaminated land continues to leach toxins in the the river. That is just the old stuff, not all the plastics that have found their way in there in the last decades. Then there are the things happening up the river in the watershed- mostly phosphates from farming.
At present, there is consierable focus on a large fine handed out to Southern Water for releasing raw sewage into the rivers (because it is cheaper to pay the fines than invest in new treatment facilities) but it should not come as a surprise that the Clyde has had similar incidents.
The obvious thing about the estuary though is how empty it is compared to what SHOULD be there. It is a bit like looking at our contour-planted hilsides, devoid as they are of almost all the flora and fauna that used to form the great rain forests, and getting excited by the presence of an eagle. The fish are not there. The reefs and kelp beds are shrinking, the sea bed has and is being scoured by trawlers dredging for the only commercial crop left, prawns and scallops. There is a summary of much of this here.
The thing is, we can do something about this. The toxiicity up river is frankly more of a risk to us (apart from the phosphates and other agricultural polutions in the upper river). There is however great evidence that marine protection areas, partiularly ones that can be policed as easily as the Clyde estuary could be, work.
Let us not be complacent. The firth of Clyde is lovely, but it is not healthy. It needs our help.
Dirty old river
Dirty old river all rusty and brown
Coughs out a ship from the dirty old town
Scavenging birds patrol overhead
Searching for things only recently dead
Last resort trawler hauls close up to shore
Scrapes up the last scallop and the very last prawn
A flatiron-shaped tug smooths out towards sea
Like the impossible flight of the last bumble bee
The dirty old river that once was pretty
Collects like a sewer from the arse of this city
Where once swam the salmon, the perch and brown trout
There are only jobbies bobbing about