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Displaying items by tag: Loughs Agency

Suspension of the native oyster fishery in the Foyle area will continue for another month, with the closure extended until 6pm on Sunday 31 March.

The Loughs Agency says it made the decision following an analysis of the latest stock assessment data, which it says highlights the need to prioritise conservation.

“It is not a decision we have taken lightly,” Loughs Agency chief executive Sharon McMahon said. “We are fully aware of the impact that this will have on our native oyster fishery stakeholders in relation to the fishing of oysters in Lough Foyle.

“However, it is imperative that we take decisions in a science-led approach with the future sustainability of the fishery and the viability of the oyster population in mind.”

McMahon said Lough Agency marine scientists “made clear that removal of 100% of the stock above the minimum landing size is not sustainable, and removing a large proportion of stock over 80mm this season could have a detrimental impact on future recruitment to the population.

“Our remit as a regulatory body allows us to make informed management decisions such as this in real-time, which will help maintain a sustainable fishery for the future.”

Scientific data from the latest stock assessment can be found below:

Biomass summary

Population summary

Flatground summary

Great Bank summary

Perch summary

Quigleys Point summary

Southside North summary

Southside South summary

Published in Marine Science

The Loughs Agency is set to lead a major marine tracking project after €1.6m of EU funding was secured by the European Tracking Network (ETN).

The successful bid came following an open call for funding by the EU’s Biodiversa+ scheme, which is designed to support research proposals relating to biodiversity projects.

At the national level, funding has been provided by the Environmental Protection Agency to enable the Loughs Agency to participate in the programme.

The three-year North East Atlantic Marine Tracking Network (NorTrack) project aims to monitor the movements of aquatic species critical to the North-East Atlantic (NEA).

This collaborative initiative will also address pressing questions related to major ecological challenges facing this vital marine region.

The remote tracking of animals, which is known in research circles as telemetry, has already provided vital information about the biology and ecology of aquatic species.

In addition to Atlantic salmon and sea trout, the project will enable the Loughs Agency to study the movements of European eel as well as predator–prey interactions.

NorTrack will work closely with the Horizon Europe-funded STRAITS (Strategic Infrastructure for Improved Animal Tracking in Europeans Seas) project, which has distributed acoustic telemetry infrastructure throughout Europe so that the movements of various aquatic species can be studied.

‘These types of collaborative research initiatives are crucial in gathering data which can inform policy and decision-making’

Sharon McMahon, Loughs Agency chief executive said: “We are delighted to once again be playing a leading role in a major pan-European biodiversity project, supported by our brilliant colleagues at ETN.

“These types of collaborative research initiatives are crucial in gathering data which can inform policy and decision-making for matters within our remit.

“The funding obtained ensures that Loughs Agency can continue the exemplary work carried out in recent years on projects such as SeaMonitor and STRAITS, and the team looks forward to making a difference.”

Commenting on the announcement, Dr Tara Higgins, EPA programme manager said: “The EPA is committed to supporting Ireland’s participation and leadership in important transnational research partnerships like Biodiversa+.

“We are delighted to fund the Loughs Agency in leading the NorTrack research project, which will advance marine biodiversity monitoring in the North-East Atlantic and in turn contribute to international marine management, conservation and policy.

“The EPA also acknowledges the important role of our co-funding partners, the Marine Institute and the National Parks & Wildlife Service, in supporting the NorTrack project.”

More information on this project can be found at www.europeantrackingnetwork.org/nortrack.

Published in Marine Science
Tagged under

Loughs Agency has made the decision to retain salmon carcass tag numbers for angling licence holders for the 2024 season in line with the policy followed in the previous three years at a maximum of one blue tag (1st March to 31st May) and two black tags (1st June to 31st October).

Based on the information collected in 2023, a continual fall in salmon numbers has been recorded year on year, and consequently, the previously adopted precautionary approach needs to be maintained.

The principal objective of this measure is to carefully manage salmon stocks in the Foyle and Carlingford systems due to concern from within the Agency over the conservation levels of the species.

Loughs Agency has undertaken a review of legislation and has come to the following conclusion: “It is the view of some stakeholders that the Agency should manage carcass tags on a catchment-by-catchment basis. The use of real-time figures can be beneficial in informing decision-making on the number of tags to be distributed per year, and how many tags can be given out for angling in each catchment.”

This viewpoint is to be considered in regulatory changes once actions from the review can be implemented.

In the majority of rivers throughout Northern Ireland and in many locations globally, catch and release is now mandatory for salmon angling due to the pressures on sustainable populations. In these areas, no carcass tags are issued, and anglers are forbidden from retaining any fish. It is encouraging that most anglers in the Foyle and Carlingford areas are aware of these pressures, and now voluntarily practice catch and release.

Loughs Agency also recognises the value of anglers on the rivers and their contributions towards sustainability. Considering this, the Agency has agreed a compromise while still fulfilling obligations under the Habitats Directive. Salmon are a selection feature of Foyle Rivers that have been designated as Special Areas of Conservation.

In recent years this has led to the suspension of commercial salmon netting, while waters under the jurisdiction of Loughs Agency have subsequently been declared as catch and release only.

Loughs Agency is continuously working to refine estimates of salmon stocks in the Foyle and Carlingford catchments.

Published in Angling
Tagged under

In late October and early November, Foyle College became the latest and final school to complete the 2023 Foyle and Carlingford Ambassador Programme after a week of engagement and educational workshops across the Foyle catchment area.

On the Monday, 21 students from Foyle College were welcomed to the Loughs Agency in Prehen, making them the first school group invited to the agency by the Education Team since before the pandemic.

In the afternoon, the group were given talks and demonstrations from Diego del Villar and Kieran Byrne on some of the work they do for the agency, including acoustic telemetry, marine life tracking and water quality monitoring.

The day finished off with some map workshops with the group on the Foyle catchment, allowing them to get more familiar with the agency’s jurisdiction and the areas they would be visiting throughout the week.

Foyle College Ambassadors learn about the Lough Agency’s work at its HQ in PrehenFoyle College Ambassadors learn about the Lough Agency’s work at its HQ in Prehen

Tuesday saw the Education Team join up with FROG Outdoor Education at a crisp but sunny Moyagh Fishery to give the Ambassadors an opportunity to try coarse fishing and receive coaching from professional angling guides. Over 200 fish were caught, with some participants catching over 20 roach individually.

Ambassadors were taught how to safely catch and release the fish once caught, and afterwards received their Level One Cast Award. Some Ambassadors expressed an interest in taking up fishing and were subsequently given details of local angling clubs within the area.

The Ambassadors tried out coarse fishing with FROG Outdoor Education at a crisp but sunny Moyagh FisheryThe Ambassadors tried out coarse fishing with FROG Outdoor Education at a crisp but sunny Moyagh Fishery

On Wednesday, the Ambassadors made the trip from their school to Ness Woods for a day of river and woodland habitat studies. Fisheries inspector Jason McCartney discussed his role in the Loughs Agency and the work that goes on within the Conservation and Protection Directorate. He showed the group some native oysters, seized nets and key equipment such as thermal cameras.

The group of 21 pupils were then split into two groups and given different tasks in the late morning. The first group carried out practice kick samples and macroinvertebrate identification to help indicate the overall water quality of the river. The second carried out key weather observations that need noted when carrying out a freshwater survey, as well as learning all about the biodiversity within the woodlands.

Afterwards the group participated in a game based around the migration of the Atlantic salmon, eventually switching tasks and partaking in each other’s activities.

In the afternoon the two groups were brought together to carry out CSSI macroinvertebrate surveys, giving the river an overall score of ‘Good’ water quality. The Ambassadors loved getting in the water while learning about the waterways and how the Loughs Agency monitor the health of the rivers.

Foyle College Ambassadors were engaged in river and woodland habitat studies in Ness WoodsFoyle College Ambassadors were engaged in river and woodland habitat studies in Ness Woods

Thursday was a coastal exploration Day on Benone Beach, with the Ambassadors getting the chance to investigate the marine biodiversity washed up along the coastline and carrying out a litter pick.

A coastal exploration workshop in the afternoon saw the Ambassadors find everything from shore crab carapaces, diverse ranges of seaweeds and shells, shark and ray egg cases, welk eggs and much more.

Ambassadors then learned how to identify many of the marine species, and most importantly, how to gently and safely handle and minimise disturbance, returning anything that’s found back to its natural place.

The day was finished off with the Ambassadors creating some fantastic beach art from the sand, shells and any other natural materials they could find.

The students explored marine biodiversity on Benone BeachThe students explored marine biodiversity on Benone Beach

There was a quick change of plan on Friday, meaning the Ambassadors ended up on a trip to Magilligan Point.

The Ambassadors started off with a quick litter pick to clean the beach before taking a walk through the dunes to the Martello tower, where Michael talked of the importance of the structure for the defence of the River Foyle in the 1800s.

Magilligan Point was the perfect location to talk about the Foyle system and the flows out towards the Atlantic Ocean. The group then discussed everything they had learned over the previous five days.

In the afternoon, to mark the end of the week, several team-building games took place, allowing the group some free time on the beach with some of the Ambassadors rock pooling, playing football and some even ‘sunbathing’.

The week ended with a trip to Magilligan PointThe week ended with a trip to Magilligan Point

Overall, this was a fantastic week, where Loughs Agency staff witnessed a growth in confidence, the overcoming of fears and a new awareness and interest in local ecosystems being developed among the participants.

There were great conversations around environmental awareness, discussions on everyday life as a teenager and honest revelations on prospects. For many of the Ambassadors, this was their first experience in these types of outdoor locations, further emphasising the importance of open-air environmental education. The hope is that this experience has planted many seeds for future decision making when it comes to protecting and conserving the natural world.

The Loughs Agency offers a huge thank you to everyone who helped in the delivery of the programme, staff members Diego, Kieran and Jason for their time and efforts, and especially all the Ambassadors who took part in the Foyle and Carlingford Ambassador Programme.

The Loughs Agency will begin recruitment in the new year for the Foyle & Carlingford 2024 schools programme and early spring for the summer programme. If your school is interested in taking part, get in touch with [email protected].

Published in Environment

The public consultation has now commenced for the Loughs Agency’s draft Climate Action Plan, which outlines how the organisation aims to reduce its carbon emissions in the coming years.

Responses are welcome for the next 12 weeks, with the consultation period closing on 31 January 2024.

The draft Climate Action Plan aims to reflect the leadership role the organisation wishes to take while supporting a modal shift away from high-carbon energy and implementing climate-resilient solutions for both the Foyle and Carlingford catchment areas.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, the Loughs Agency is holding two information sessions this week with staff present at both sessions to answer questions on the draft plan while also assisting with the feedback process.

Alternatively, those interested in having their say on these strategy documents can do so in their own time by reading the draft plan and completing the online survey.

Published in Environment

Following July’s programme of events, the Foyle & Carlingford Ambassador summer programme was completed after a week of engaging and educational workshops across the Carlingford catchment this August.

Young people signed up from across the catchment to take part. A highly rewarding week witnessed a growth in confidence, fears being overcome and connections and friendships developing among all Ambassadors, making for lots of great memories.

A major aim of outdoor environmental education interventions is to provide individuals with the opportunity of knowing relevant facts about the ecological processes of natural environments, connecting visually, physically and emotionally, which can lead to development of positive attitudes and behaviours toward environmental preservation.

Summer programme participants visit the shoreline of Carlingford Lough for a study of the area’s marine biodiversitySummer programme participants visit the shoreline of Carlingford Lough for a study of the area’s marine biodiversity

The week began with an introductory day at Newry Leisure Centre with a hike to Cloughmore Stone near Rostrevor and a magnificent view over Carlingford Lough.

Day two brought an angling CAST Taster with the Foyle River catchment Outdoor Group (FROG) at Camlough, while day three took the Ambassadors to Fairy Glen/Kilbroney Park for a study of the river habitat and freshwater ecosystems as well as a Q&A session with a fishery officer and an electrofishing demonstration.

Day four took place on the Carlingford shoreline with an exploration of local marine biodiversity and ocean literacy, including a litter pick and a primer on safety at the shore.

Omagh Academy pupils get an an angling CAST Taster with the Foyle River catchment Outdoor Group (FROG) at Birchwood FisheryOmagh Academy pupils get an an angling CAST Taster with the Foyle River catchment Outdoor Group (FROG) at Birchwood Fishery

Wilderness survival was the theme of the fifth and final day, with various challenges and team-building exercises helping those participating to complete the requirements for the John Muir Discover Award.

Elsewhere and more recently, the schools programme saw Omagh Academy — the first school in the Omagh area to take part — engaged in workshops across the Foyle catchment, with Ambassadors ages 12-14 building up environmental knowledge, skills and awareness for the outdoors, focusing on the role the Loughs Agency plays in conserving and protecting local waterways.

Omagh Academy pupils took in Strule Arts Centre, angling at Birchwood Fishery in Drumquin, Gortin Glen Forest Part for habitat study, the coastal environment at Benone Beach and Gortin Activity Centre for team-building.

Year 10 students at Gaelcholáiste Dhoire get their surf on at Benone BeachYear 10 students at Gaelcholáiste Dhoire get their surf on at Benone Beach

In late September, students from Year 10 at Gaelcholáiste Dhoire completed their first Foyle & Carlingford Ambassador schools programme during the week Storm Agnes hit the UK and Ireland.

Benone Beach was also on their itinerary, for a day of surfing, as was Cashel Lake Trout Fishery for a morning of angling before the weather took a turn. A river habitat study at Roe Valley Country park was postponed to the following week, where certificates were also awarded to all the participating Ambassadors.

The Loughs Agency will begin recruitment in the new year for the Foyle & Carlingford 2024 schools programme and early spring for the summer programme. If your school is interested in taking part, get in touch with [email protected].

Published in Environment

A public consultation will soon commence on the Loughs Agency’s draft Climate Action Plan, which outlines how the organisation aims to reduce its carbon emissions in the coming years.

The consultation, which will run for 12 weeks from Wednesday 8 November, will provide members of the public with the opportunity to share their thoughts on the Loughs Agency’s plans to combat climate change.

A draft version of the Climate Action Plan has been developed, reflecting the leadership role the organisation wishes to take while supporting a modal shift away from high-carbon energy and implementing climate-resilient solutions for both the Foyle and Carlingford catchment areas.

The headline commitment from the draft Climate Action Plan is the Loughs Agency’s ‘Climate Ambition’, defined as follows: “To reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 51% by 2030 and to be a net zero carbon and climate-resilient Agency by 2050.”

These targets will help the organisation align with the ambitions of strategic stakeholders and respective government departments.

In addition, the plan will help ensure that Loughs Agency remains at the forefront of developing and leading in the field of climate adaptation and mitigation, further enhancing its mission in protecting the natural environment and the species within Foyle and Carlingford.

The Loughs Agency will be holding two information sessions in November, with staff present at both sessions to answer questions on the draft plan while also assisting with the feedback process:

  • Loughs Agency HQ, Prehen, Wednesday 8 November from 5pm-8pm
  • The Foy Centre, Dundalk St, Carlingford, Thursday 9 November from 5pm-8pm

Alternatively, those interested in having their say on these strategy documents can do so in their own time by reading the draft plan and completing the survey, which will be available on the Consultations section of the Loughs Agency website from Wednesday 8 November.

Loughs Agency chief executive Sharon McMahon said: “Climate change is now an immediate reality, and the work of Loughs Agency has never been more relevant in protecting the aquatic environment in our catchments.

:The impacts of climate change are already being felt on the aquatic ecosystems that we protect, conserve, and develop. We are acutely aware of the delicate ecological balance within these aquatic habitats and how this balance relates to wider ecosystems and to the wider communities who live within these areas.

“While the agency has statutory obligations and targets regarding climate action in both jurisdictions, a planned response to climate change is at the heart of what we do. In our remit to conserve and protect the catchments under our care, we develop nature-based solutions to the challenges of climate change and implement these solutions through adaptation and mitigation strategies.

“Thus Loughs Agency, as an environmental organisation, has an opportunity to show leadership in this area and be an exemplar of best practice in response to climate change.”

Published in Environment

A ‘substantial’ fish kill affecting trout and young salmon has been discovered in a tributary of the River Finn in Co Donegal.

Donegal Daily reported on Wednesday (13 September) on the incident in what’s described as a “nursery stream” at Crossroads in Killygordon, east Donegal.

It says it understands that hundreds of trout and young salmon have been lost.

In a statement, the Loughs Agency said it was alerted on Tuesday evening (12 September) “to the potential presence of a pollutant into a tributary of the River Finn, allegedly stemming from a commercial premises”.

It continued; “Loughs Agency fishery officers immediately initiated an investigation, where they discovered a discharge of deleterious matter had entered the watercourse.

“Substantial fish mortalities were discovered in the river on Tuesday evening, as well as during searches on the morning of Wednesday 13 September. Samples were collected from the discharge for analysis.

“Loughs Agency has committed significant resources into the clean-up operation, with fishery officers actively working to help ensure additional fish mortalities are mitigated as best as possible. We will have resources at the site of the incident until the investigation is complete.”

Published in Angling

The Foyle & Carlingford Ambassador Programme took place across the Foyle Catchment area throughout the month of July.

Young Ambassadors attended a series of educational workshops, reviewed natural environments and studied environmental preservation techniques.

This highly rewarding experience brought lots of wonderful memories, with Ambassadors developing their self-confidence, overcoming fears and, most importantly, creating new connections and friendships.

The series of events in the programme included an introductory workshop at the Everglades Hotel followed by a boat trip on the River Foyle; an angling CAST Taster with the Foyle River catchment Outdoor Group (FROG) at Ballyheather Fishery; a river habitat study and eco-fishing demonstration at Ness Country Park; an exploration of marine biodiversity at Culdaff Beach in Donegal; and a day of surfing with the Long Line Surf School at Benone Beach in Donegal.

To gain the John Muir Discovery Award, Ambassadors must complete four challenges — discover a wild place; explore its wilderness; conserve and take responsibility; and share your experiences — and document them throughout the programme.

One participant shared the following: “I shared my experiences with my family when I got home by describing in detail what I did and learned that day! I LOVE the outdoors. I want to help preserve it so that future generations can experience it too!”

The Loughs Agency gives a huge thank you to all staff who helped with preparation and delivery of the programme.

Published in Environment

A sea trout tagged as part of a collaborative project led by the Loughs Agency and the River Faughan Anglers has provided remarkable insights into the growth and behaviour of these elusive fish within the Lough Foyle system.

The ‘Casting for Knowledge’ initiative highlights the value of combining the expertise of local anglers and scientific researchers to unravel the mysteries of sea trout ecology.

The sea trout in question, which bore the tag number 7841, was implanted on 12 May 2022 in the Faughan River thanks to the generous support of the River Faughan Anglers, who purchased the tag. The fish was then caught by a member of the club in the lower reaches of the river on 3 July this year.

This sea trout exhibited a unique pattern of behaviour by never venturing out to sea, and instead remaining exclusively within the Lough Foyle system.

In addition, the tagged sea trout demonstrated an impressive growth rate during this period, gaining 620 grams over the course of 14 months.

The Loughs Agency has championed the discovery as “a testament to the successful collaborative working between scientific researchers and angling clubs of the Faughan, Roe and Carrickmore rivers”.

Dr Diego del Villar, senior scientific officer at the Loughs Agency and lead scientist on the Casting for Knowledge project, expressed excitement about these significant findings.

“The journey of this sea trout showcases the immense potential of collaboration between anglers and scientists,” he said. “By harnessing the knowledge and expertise of local angling clubs, we can unlock crucial insights that have far-reaching implications for the management and conservation of these remarkable fish.”

Gerry Quinn, secretary at River Faughan Anglers added: “Having sponsored several tags, we were really interested to learn that a sea trout which was tagged on 12 May last year had successfully negotiated the various perils of the Faughan’s tidal stretch and Lough Foyle, and returned to the river just short of 14 months later. Indeed, the fact it was caught a few hundred yards from where it was tagged was quite the surprise.

“As fishers of the Faughan’s sea-going trout and custodians of the river, we welcome the opportunity to participate in and sponsor programmes which help to inform us about the lives of these elusive children of the tides.”

Published in Angling
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