As the annual Matlock Boxing Day raft race paddles back into view, the Environment Agency has urged spectators to treat the river with care.
Thousands of people are expected to attend the event, and in recent years the crowds have been getting more and more involved by bombarding boats with missiles such as eggs and bags of flour.
While race organisers appreciate enthusiastic support, the event is increasingly under threat due to its impact on the River Derwent and was only permitted to go ahead this year after assurances regarding spectator behaviour.
Environment Agency spokesman Paul Reeves said: “We realise the race is an important social event for the area, which attracts a large number of local residents as well as visitors from further afield, has a positive impact on the local economy, and raises funds for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI).
“However, we are appealing to spectators to consider the environment by not throwing flour-filled plastic bags or other objects at the raft racers and into the water this year.”
He added: “If plastic or paper bags enter the watercourse, they pose a real threat to wildlife both locally and further afield.
“Last year there were sightings of water birds trying to eat floating flour-filled bags, and the deadly impact of plastics on river and sea life is well known and currently in the news.”
The message has been echoed by the event team, Derbyshire Dales District Council and organisations including Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, which is currently working to improve water quality in rivers across the Derwent catchment.
Council leader Lewis Rose said: “The Boxing Day race is something of a tradition here in the Derbyshire Dales and long may it continue.
“However, we absolutely support the Environment Agency’s plea to spectators to refrain from activities that threaten the environment and wildlife, as well as littering our waterways and streets.”
Race organisers are appealing still for more volunteer safety marshals.
For full details, visit www.matlockraftevent.co.uk.