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Displaying items by tag: 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.

Published in Coastal Notes
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More than 200 new Salmon Ambassadors have graduated as part of the Loughs Agency’s 2022 programme for primary schools in the Foyle and Carlingford river catchments.

The interactive, hands-on learning programme encouraged pupils to learn about their local river system and included various activities and topics such as salmon life cycles, migration, conservation, preservation, restoration and the role of the Loughs Agency.

This year’s programme culminated in an online conference showcasing the outstanding salmon projects carried out by each school since the beginning of February.

At the virtual event, pupils presented animations, videos, posters and works of art to their fellow Salmon Ambassadors across the participating schools, which this year were Broadbridge Primary School in Eglinton, Drumrane Primary School in Dungiven, St Columba’s Primary School in Newbuildings and Nazareth House Primary School, all in Co Derry; Scoil Naomh Lorcan in Omeath, Co Louth; St Mary’s National School in Stranorlar, Co Donegal; and St Patrick’s Primary School in Castlederg, Co Tyrone.

Each class focused on a particular life stage. Participants also had the opportunity to hear stories: a grandfather of one of the pupils was famous for catching the largest salmon ever recorded in the River Finn.

Pupils highlighted the habitats in which the fish live, the food they eat, the natural threats they face and the impact of human activities and waste on their health and survival. 

Each class also had the opportunity to create a pledge to work towards in the future to continue conserving and protecting salmon populations and their surrounding environments.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, the Loughs Agency initiated Salmon Ambassadors as part of 2019’s International Year of the Salmon to help connect young people to the array of incredible fish that inhabit the Foyle and Carlingford catchments.

The next Salmon Ambassador programme will commence in early 2023 and is targeted at primary- and national-school level, the Loughs Agency says.

Published in Marine Wildlife

With Met Éireann forecasting a heat wave for large parts of the country into this weekend, combined with lower-than-average rainfall, Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) is warning that there is a high risk of fish kills due to thermal stress and reduced oxygen levels in lakes and rivers.

Also known as deoxygenation, reduced oxygen levels in a river or lake make it very difficult for fish to breathe and survive.

The State agency responsible for the protection and conservation of freshwater fish and habitats is concerned that water levels in many rivers are low and approaching drought conditions.

Therefore, it is appealing to anglers, the farming community and the general public to report any sightings of fish under thermal stress, which may be caused by the extreme heat combined with low water levels and other pressures.

Anglers are also being asked to voluntarily stop using ‘keep nets’ while high temperature warnings from Met Éireann are in place, as these nets may cause unintentional distress to fish.

In addition, anglers that practice ‘catch and release’ fishing are asked not to fish during the heat wave where possible, as this may put undue pressure on fish populations.

Dr Gregory Forde, head of operations at IFI explains: “Unfortunately low water levels and high water temperatures can lead to fish kills, especially as there is less oxygen in the water to allow fish to breathe.

‘During the current heat wave, air and water temperatures are approaching dangerous levels and fish kills may be unavoidable’

“Once the water temperature exceeds 20C, fish species such as salmon and trout suffer ‘thermal stress’. During the current heat wave, air and water temperatures are approaching dangerous levels and fish kills may be unavoidable. In some instances, moving fish in and out of the water may also prove too stressful. 

“That’s why we’re asking anglers practicing catch and release fishing to consider taking a break from fishing while high temperature warnings are in place. We’re also asking anglers to voluntarily stop using ‘keep nets’ until conditions become more favourable.”

Last month, IFI and the Office of Public Works’ data buoy recorded a surface water temperature of 21.84C at Lough Sheelin in Co Cavan, coinciding with July’s hottest air temperature of 30.75C. 

IFI notes that significant thermal stress can occur in brown trout and other cold water fish species at temperatures at or above 20C.

Forde said: “Inland Fisheries Ireland staff are continuously monitoring water bodies, such as rivers and lakes, for any signs of fish suffering thermal stress in shallow water or drying out rivers and streams.

“We’re encouraging the public to report any sightings of fish suffering thermal stress to our 24-hour confidential hotline on 0818 34 74 24 so we can respond as quickly as possible to help rescue or relocate these fish.

“It is also a good time to remind all those using pesticides that these should be used only as a last resort, always in accordance with product instructions and always respecting statutory ‘no use’ zones, being mindful at all times of proximity to water bodies such as ditches, streams, ponds, rivers, lakes and springs. Even a very small amount of pesticide can be highly toxic to the aquatic environment.”

‘Many of our fish species will find survival difficult in these warm conditions without the added pressure of angling stress’

Elsewhere, the Loughs Agency is advising anglers across both the Foyle and Carlingford catchments to help preserve salmon and trout stocks in local rivers following prolonged periods of hot weather.

These extreme weather conditions have led to low river flows, high water temperatures and low oxygen levels in many bodies of water.

The guidance comes after only 43% of the average rainfall fell in Northern Ireland last month, although some rivers in the Foyle catchment also experienced severe flooding. Each one of these significant weather events put stress on fish.

The agency’s head of science Dr Sarah McLean is hopeful that anglers will proceed with caution on the rivers, particularly when fishing in the current warm temperatures.

“Many of our fish species will find survival difficult in these warm conditions without the added pressure of angling stress,” she said.

“Even catch and release poses a risk in these conditions as low dissolved oxygen in the water can result in poor fish recovery rates and inadvertent mortalities.

“It is also worth remembering that high water temperatures and low dissolved oxygen levels may also leave fish more susceptible to parasites and disease, so any fish caught will also require additional care when handling.”

There are several measures anglers in Foyle and Carlingford can take to help protect fish during the hot weather:

  • Consider taking the water temperature before you fish and avoid fishing at times when water temperatures are high. Water temperature will be coolest in the early morning.
  • Where possible, keep fish in the water during catch and release.
  • Seek advice from fishery or angling clubs where appropriate.
  • Avoid targeting larger fish or sensitive species.
  • Keep nets should not be used by coarse anglers during warm weather.
  • Limit handling time.
  • Where possible and safe, release fish into deeper, faster flowing water. 

Anglers should report distressed or dead fish in the Foyle or Carlingford catchments directly and promptly to the Loughs Agency at +44 (0)28 71 342100 or [email protected]

Published in Angling

The Loughs Agency said it was delighted to welcome Charlie McConalogue, Minister for Agriculture, Food & the Marine, to its zone at the Foyle Maritime Festival recently.

The minister was able to spend some time with the staff and experience the agency’s ‘Marine Machine’, which featured a critters’ pond, biodiversity area and a life-size basking shark.

Among the critters were crabs and a lobster, while the biodiversity area highlighted some of the hidden hazards that can be found within our catchments and beyond.

The Loughs Agency also debuted its ‘VR Experience’ at the maritime festival. The short video took users on a journey along the River Foyle past the Craigavon and Peace Bridges before diving underwater where the famous ‘Dopey Dick’ whale and a basking shark awaited.

Minister McConalogue said: “I had great pleasure visiting the Foyle Maritime Festival and had the opportunity to attend the Loughs Agency zone at the festival and meet the team.

“The Marine Machine and VR Experience are very impressive in promoting the importance of conservation and development of the fisheries and marine resources of the Foyle and Carlingford catchments.

“It was great to see the family-focused activities provided by Loughs Agency based on the River Foyle, ensuring enjoyment for the whole family.”

Loughs Agency interim chief executive Sharon McMahon added: “Firstly, on behalf of the Agency I'd like to extend a huge thank you to the minister for taking the time to come and visit our zone. It was a great opportunity to showcase our contribution to the Foyle Maritime Festival and we thoroughly enjoyed having Mr McConalogue as our guest.

“It was also brilliant to be able to highlight our ongoing work in providing sustainable social, economic and environmental benefits through the effective conservation, management, promotion and development of the fisheries and marine resources of the Foyle and Carlingford areas.

“The Marine Machine and VR experience are just the latest in a long line of projects for Loughs Agency, particularly when it comes to promoting positive biodiversity.”

Published in Maritime Festivals

Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) says it is investigating a recent fish kill incident recorded on the Ballinagh River in Co Cavan.

Environmental and fisheries officers from the North-Western River Basin District were alerted to the incident by a member of the public on the evening of Tuesday 19 July.

Water samples were taken at the location and removed for scientific analysis.

The State agency responsible for the protection and conservation of freshwater fish and habitats estimates that in excess of 150 fish were killed in the incident, including brown trout, stickleback and minnow.

IFI adds that as investigations are ongoing, it is not in a position to comment on the cause of the fish kill at this stage, pending further analysis of samples taken.

Dr Milton Matthews, director of the North-Western River Basin District with IFI acknowledged the ongoing support of the public in reporting suspected cases of water pollution and fish kills.

“We are grateful to the member of the public who reported this incident to us so promptly, which enabled our team to take immediate action and start our investigation without delay,” he said.

“Early notice is very often critical in determining the underlying cause of fish kill events, such as this one on the Ballinagh River.”

Members of the public are encouraged to call IFI’s new confidential 24-hour hotline number on 0818 34 74 24 to report any sightings of fish kills or suspected water pollution.

Meanwhile in Northern Ireland, the Loughs Agency has confirmed a fish kill on the River Mourne in Strabane, Co Tyrone where a number of dead adult salmon were discovered in the river’s lower stretch.

“Fishery officers are currently attempting to recover a number of dead fish to allow investigation,” the agency says.

“The cause at this moment is unknown. Officers at this time do not wish to speculate, but high-water temperatures and ambient air temperatures can result in conditions in our rivers that may be unfavourable to fish.

“Anyone recovering a dead fish should contact the Loughs Agency 24-hour response number on +44 287 134 2100.”

Published in Angling

The Loughs Agency has issued an alert requesting that anglers or members of the general public report any sightings of Pacific pink salmon in the Foyle or Carlingford river systems.

These migratory species of salmon, also known as ‘humpback’ salmon, are native to river systems in the northern Pacific Ocean but populations appearing in Europe are believed to have originated from stocking programmes in Russia in the latter stages of the 20th century.

Recordings of Pacific pink salmon in the Foyle and Carlingford catchments had been rare until 2017, when unprecedented numbers of the species began to be reported within inshore coastal waters in Scotland and England, and small numbers appeared in the Foyle catchment.

In 2019, the species was spotted in the Faughan, Dennett, Roe and Mourne Rivers within the Loughs Agency’s Foyle catchment between Ireland and Northern Ireland, and it was also prevalent in many other rivers throughout the rest of Ireland.

Inland Fisheries Ireland issued its own appeal to anglers last summer after a specimen was caught in Co Mayo.

Anglers are asked to be especially vigilant for potential reappearances of Pacific pink salmon during August and September, when they are most likely to be in spawning areas.

The following steps should be followed in the case of sightings or catches of Pacific pink salmon:

  • Take a clear photograph of the fish and keep a copy of the image
  • Record the date, location and method of capture or sighting, as well as details of the site
  • Note the weight and fork length measurement of the fish
  • Record the sex of the fish
  • Freeze and store the fish whole as soon as possible after capture
  • Contact the Loughs Agency immediately on +44 (0) 28 71 342100

If you are unsure as to the appearance of Pacific pink salmon, the following information can help identify the species:

  • Adult fish fresh from the sea are blue-green to steel blue on the back
  • Tend to have silver sides and a white underbelly
  • Range from 40—55cm in length (maximum 76cm)
  • Range from 1kg-2.5kg in weight (maximum 6.8kg)
Published in Angling
Tagged under

The Loughs Agency has confirmed the detection of a “limited number” of escaped rainbow trout from an aquaculture facility in the Foyle area.

Investigations are being conducted by inland fisheries officials from Northern Ireland’s Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA).

Anglers in the area who catch rainbow trout are advised not to release them back into the river and, if possible, to retain samples for Loughs Agency fishery officers who will collect them on request at +44 (0) 28 71 342100.

Published in Angling
Tagged under

Interested parties are now invited to apply for a licence to fish the 2022/2023 native oyster fishery on Lough Foyle.

Applicants will be required to submit a completed application via post, which must be received on or before Friday 29 July.

It is the responsibility of the applicant to provide proof of postage in the event of a late application delivery or a missing application.

At this stage the Loughs Agency asks that only completed application forms are sent. Please do not send additional documents or payment.

Loughs Agency offices are currently closed but application forms are available for download.

The licence fee is £150 or €166 and fees payable on receipt of licence.

No late applications will be accepted without proof of postage within the stated application timeframe.

Send applications to the following address:

Oyster Licence Applications
Loughs Agency
22 Victoria Road
Derry ~ Londonderry
BT47 2AB
Northern Ireland

Telephone opening hours 9am to 5pm Monday-Friday
Tel: +44 (0) 28 71 342100
Fax: +44 (0) 28 71 342720

Published in Fishing

This week the Loughs Agency welcomed Europe’s top marine scientists to the Northwest for the European Tracking Network’s (ETN) annual meeting, with delegates from across the continent attending the three-day event in Derry.

The conference, which is funded by the EU’s COST Action programme, took place in the City Hotel Derry from Tuesday 5 to Thursday 7 April, with attendees taking part in a range of informative workshops and activities.

The Loughs Agency is a member of ETN, an initiative devoted to furthering knowledge and management of aquatic species around Europe.

The network has six strategically placed large marine fish counters — known as ‘arrays’ — situated across the continent’s waters, with various member organisations involved in the long-term project.

During the conference delegates discussed a range of issues, including the current status of the project, new funding opportunities, key species for research and new projects in the pipeline.

Those in attendance have also embarked on site visits to Lough Foyle and rivers in the Foyle catchment. Over the course of these visits, they were able to observe the agency’s fish counters as well as estuary arrays which are deployed as part of SeaMonitor, the Loughs Agency-led project which has been described as “Europe’s largest fish counter”.

Graham Warke, the Mayor of Derry and Strabane was in attendance at the City Hotel Derry on Wednesday 6 April to meet delegates, and the party also had the opportunity to sample some of the region’s finest food and drink at the Walled City Brewery.

Sharon McMahon, acting chief executive of the Loughs Agency said: “We are delighted to have the opportunity to welcome so many esteemed scientists, academics and environmentalists from across Europe to the Foyle catchment area in Ireland’s scenic Northwest.

“The agency is proud of the incredible work carried out by our science function on a daily basis, and as lead partner on the SeaMonitor project, we are fortunate to be right at the cutting edge of fish tracking technology.

“Through continuous collaboration with our European colleagues, this ETN annual meeting will enable us to increase our knowledge of aquatic species, which in turn will help us preserve marine life throughout Europe.”

ETN coordination Dr Jan Reubens explained that the network’s mission “is to track aquatic animals across Europe to better understand, protect and manage them. This meeting is an important milestone to boost our objectives by creating network opportunities, strengthening collaborations, sharing knowledge and advancing the science.”

Published in Marine Science

The Loughs Agency and Woodland Trust Northern Ireland have announced the launch of their new biodiversity project, TREES, within the Foyle and Carlingford catchment areas.

The primary aim of the TREES project is to protect and restore vital habitats for wildlife in rivers and trees.

It uses a nature-friendly solution of planting trees and creating a network of pond and dam systems which are specifically designed to manage flooding, potential pollution and nutrient run-off from farms which border vital river networks.

Ponds will be created on farmland, to hold an ample source of water which will provide a much-needed contingency, reducing the need for abstraction directly from the river. Ponds provide an additional benefit of retaining a water source on farms during periods of drought.

Areas of wet woodland are one of the most dynamic habitats and are important for a range of priority species, including salmon, otters, nesting birds, insects, bats and amphibians.

Biodiversity is a major focus for the project, with the planting of native trees sourced and grown in the UK and Ireland a priority to help ensure success.

So far, over 24 schemes are under way with the TREES project, which is on target to plant over 120,000 native broadleaf trees by the end of 2023.

Loughs Agency chief executive Sharon McMahon said: “We are delighted to be able to work with our esteemed colleagues at Woodland Trust NI on the TREES project, which will prove to be highly beneficial for the local farming community and the environment in the Foyle and Carlingford catchments.

“We are proud to be taking this proactive approach to address issues that could potentially lead to catastrophic consequences for the fisheries if left neglected.

“This partnership with landowners, farmers, and other like-minded organisations will hopefully lead to the protection of our rivers and ecosystems for years to come.”

With 8.7% tree cover in Northern Ireland and ancient woodland forming just 0.04% of that, the Woodland Trust works hard to create new woodland, and protect and restore our existing trees.

The Faughan Valley has the largest concentration of fragmented ancient woodland in Northern Ireland, and the Loughs Agency says it has been collaborating with the Woodland Trust to work with farmers whose land borders the River Faughan.

Ian McCurley, director for Woodland Trust Northern Ireland, said: “We are planting trees and woods to create resilient landscapes and a sustainable tree landscape for the future.

“The TREES project creates new woodland to protect and connect fragmented ancient woodland and to enhance havens for wildlife all resulting in a more resilient landscape for the future. We aim to support and advise landowners and the farming community.”

The new initiative will put the local farming community at its core, the Loughs Agency says, with involvement from the agricultural sector greatly encouraged to help deliver ecosystem services for the long-term benefit of rivers, habitats, environment and nearby farms.

Further information on the TREES project can be found at loughs-agency.org.

Published in Angling
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