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‘Carlingford Ambassadors’ Discover and Care for the Catchment

6th September 2022
This year’s Carlingford Ambassadors get tuition in angling at Camlough Lake in Co Armagh
This year’s Carlingford Ambassadors get tuition in angling at Camlough Lake in Co Armagh Credit: Loughs Agency

A group of 16 young people came together last month for a five-day programme exploring the natural resources of the Carlingford catchment.

The Loughs Agency’s Carlingford Ambassador programme aims to connect young people to the waterways in their local area through discovering, conserving and protecting native flora and fauna.

The young people, who are residents from all over the catchment, gathered on the first day and immediately gelled together after a morning of icebreakers.

Through presentations and conversations, they learned about the role of the Loughs Agency and its importance in the protection and conservation of local ecosystems and biodiversity.

Camlough Lake in Co Armagh was the destination for day two. For many, it was their first time holding a fishing rod. Angling coaches provided excellent tuition and valuable tips and techniques, particularly on implementing best practices for catch and release.

This was a fun and positive day with lots of fish being caught and released by all the ambassadors — an outstanding achievement and confidence boost for many.

Day three was spent among the magnificent oak trees of Fairy Glen in Rostrevor, Co Down on the banks of the Kilbroney River. Fishery inspector David Clarke and the Carlingford team demonstrated how they carry out electrofishing surveys, building awareness of the different fish species found in their local rivers.

Carlingford Ambassadors took part in a coastal clean-up along the shore of Carlingford Lough | Credit: Loughs AgencyCarlingford Ambassadors took part in a coastal clean-up along the shore of Carlingford Lough | Credit: Loughs Agency

Ambassadors had the opportunity to learn about the role of a fishery officer, with some members of the group mentioning that this interested them as a possible career path.

The remainder of the day was spent collecting and identifying invertebrate species found in local rivers and completing a citizen survey to help indicate the river’s overall water quality.

On day four, the ambassadors explored the intertidal zone of Carlingford Lough. They were amazed to discover marine life under seaweeds and rocks — from shore crabs, blennies and mussels to breadcrumb sponges, dog whelk eggs and anemones.

Ambassadors also learned how to identify marine critters and, most importantly, to gently and safely handle them, minimising disturbance and always leaving seaweeds and rocks as they were found.

After the rockpool explorations, they led a coastal clean-up collecting litter while recording what was found. Litter items consisted of aquaculture debris (rubber bands and zip ties), soft plastics, pieces of glass and much more.

On the final day, poor weather conditions meant paddleboarding had to be abandoned. Instead, the group went to SkyPark, Ireland’s largest adventure park in Carlingford, Co Louth. The ambassadors took on the challenges, overcoming considerable fears in tackling the heights, jumps and zip lines, all while cheering each other on in what marked a brilliant way to finish the week.

Throughout the programme, the Carlingford Ambassadors have embraced all the activities and challenged themselves, while also learning about their local natural environment and what they can do to help protect and conserve it, the Loughs Agency says.

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Coastal Notes Coastal Notes covers a broad spectrum of stories, events and developments in which some can be quirky and local in nature, while other stories are of national importance and are on-going, but whatever they are about, they need to be told.

Stories can be diverse and they can be influential, albeit some are more subtle than others in nature, while other events can be immediately felt. No more so felt, is firstly to those living along the coastal rim and rural isolated communities. Here the impact poses is increased to those directly linked with the sea, where daily lives are made from earning an income ashore and within coastal waters.

The topics in Coastal Notes can also be about the rare finding of sea-life creatures, a historic shipwreck lost to the passage of time and which has yet many a secret to tell. A trawler's net caught hauling more than fish but cannon balls dating to the Napoleonic era.

Also focusing the attention of Coastal Notes, are the maritime museums which are of national importance to maintaining access and knowledge of historical exhibits for future generations.

Equally to keep an eye on the present day, with activities of existing and planned projects in the pipeline from the wind and wave renewables sector and those of the energy exploration industry.

In addition Coastal Notes has many more angles to cover, be it the weekend boat leisure user taking a sedate cruise off a long straight beach on the coast beach and making a friend with a feathered companion along the way.

In complete contrast is to those who harvest the sea, using small boats based in harbours where infrastructure and safety poses an issue, before they set off to ply their trade at the foot of our highest sea cliffs along the rugged wild western seaboard.

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