THE fish kill on the scenic Carrigs River at Dundrum in Co Down has destroyed an estimated 1,600 spawning wild salmon and sea trout of up to 6lbs – a devastating blow for such a small stream. It may never fully recover and NI Water’s offer of stocked fish adds insult to injury.
The latest incident comes after the announcement of a rise in pollution cases monitored by the Loughs Agency. There have been 150 incidents so far this year, compared to 100 in 2015. The agency has responsibility for the Carlingford and Lough Foyle areas only. In the worst incident in August, over 1,000 fish, including spawning salmon, were killed in the Faughan River in county Londonderry. There has also been a ‘significant increase’ in poaching, according to the Agency.
Carrigs River, Co. Down
The details were given to the Northern Ireland Assembly by the Agriculture and Environment Minister, Michelle McIlveen. She said last year there were 125 seizures by agency staff of boats, nets, rods and fish. This year the number of seizures stands at 197. The agency has taken 47 cases to court this year, compared to 30 in 2015.
“It’s unfortunate that we’re in this situation but staff are doing what they can,” the Minister said.
It is ‘unfortunate’ that the sport continues to have such a low priority for policymakers in Northern Ireland, despite an increasingly well organised angling lobby. There is no independent watchdog for the environment. Farming practices remain the largest killer of fish stocks year after year yet Michelle McIlveen has said ‘delivering a profitable farming industry is a key objective’ during her time in office.
This is in sharp contrast with the Republic where the state agency Inland Fisheries Ireland has a detailed Corporate Plan which sets out goals to drive forward its work around the ‘protection, conservation, promotion and development’ of fisheries over the next five years. This plan outlines how modern technology will be used and how staff are now routinely equipped with spotting scopes, night sights, thermal imaging equipment, mobile phone apps, kayaks, all-terrain vehicles, quads and motorbikes.
IFI’s chief executive Ciaran Byrne said,
“We know that angling is at a turning point in this country and it is vital that we reinvigorate the sector. This plan outlines how, with the right budgetary and staff resources, we can maximise the potential of the resource.”