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Dead river comes back to life

12th March 2009

The Glenavy River which until recently was so polluted it was designated as ‘dead’, was successfully brought back to life on Saturday thanks to the determination of the Glenavy Conservation and District Angling Club who released 500 large Brown Trout into the river.

The Club, which has more than 90 members, forced polluters to clean up their act and as a result has also received a further permit to allow it to re-introduce 50,000 Salmon fry donated by DCAL Inland Fisheries and 10,000 Dollaghan fry in mid April as well as many more thousands of Brown Trout fry.

The long-term aim of the Club and the local community is to create a public pathway along the banks of the newly rejuvenated river which will give access to those who want to fish or simply enjoy the beauty of the local countryside.

Speaking on behalf of the Conservation and Angling Club, the Chair, Lady Bain praised the support they had received from the Fisheries  Conservation Board, the Department of Culture Arts and Leisure (Inland Fisheries) and the Ulster Angling Federation working with the Northern Ireland Environment Agency to achieve such a magnificent outcome in just nine months.

“We now have 24 private water bailiffs sworn in by the Courts to ensure that the industrial and agricultural polluters along the river continue to meet the letter of the law in relation to their discharges and that the statutory authorities police any infringements with appropriate vigour.

“Most importantly we believe the rejuvenation of the Glenavy River will be a tremendous tourism asset by creating a wonderful fishing and leisure venue on our most valued local resource, Lough Neagh.

“More than 60 years ago Briggs Falls was described as one of the most beautiful tourism spots in the country, within 20 years the river it flowed into was dead and it has taken another 40 years to bring it back to life.

“For other communities throughout Northern Ireland this is proof that people power works in protecting the environment, bringing life back to our countryside and providing our children with a meaningful legacy.”

Pleading with the authorities to continue to support the community, she concluded by saying.

“We simply cannot depend on the authorities alone to police our environment, we have to take responsibility to be proactive, but the quid pro quo is that the authorities and the courts must support the community by applying the full weight of legal and financial sanctions against those who flagrantly and consistently flaunt the law.”

Restocking the Glenavy River: Background

•    The Glenavy Conservation and District Angling Cub was formed in August 2008 by a group of local residents who had become conscious of the need to protect, conserve and develop their once beautiful and healthy local salmonid river. It has 94 members of whom 24 have been sworn in by the Courts as private water bailiffs. The Club is affiliated to the Ulster Angling Federation.

•    The Glenavy river had become polluted over the years as a result both of industrial and agricultural concerns along its banks failing to meet the conditions in their discharge and other permits, and of the statutory authorities failing to police those permits with appropriate vigour.

•    Surveys commissioned by the NIEA in 2006/7 showed that the water in the lower reaches of the river was of such poor quality that the river was virtually dead. This contrasts with the position in 1942 when it was an active salmon fishing river named by the Belfast Telegraph as one of Northern Ireland’s most beautiful spots.

•    Pressure by local residents over the past eighteen months to ensure that the regulatory bodies exercised their powers more strenuously, and took legal action where appropriate, has been successful, insofar as the water quality has improved to the extent that the NIEA has been able to give the Club assurances that the water now meets the appropriate standards for a salmonid river.

•    Given that assurance, DCAL has been able to issue the Club with a permit under section 14 of Fisheries Act (NI) 1966 to restock the river with 500 1 lb brown trout and 2000 brown trout fry. The Club expects to receive a further permit to allow it to reintroduce dollaghan and salmon fry later in the season. Team

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