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01/02/2011

Habitat Boost Puts Anglers In The Swim

Improvements in local river habitats are set to help rebuild salmon stocks - while an 'invasion' of giant hogweed is to be repelled through a £2.6m project to root the species out of riverbanks in both Ireland and Scotland.

Fast-growing foreign weeds have taken over waterside land, squeezing out native species and limiting access for anglers and other river users as the aggressive plants can cause health problems for those who come in contact.

An EU-funded initiative led by scientists at Queen's University, Belfast, is involved in a scheme spending £12bn controlling the giant hogweed plant across Europe and £7.5m in Britain alone.

The Controlling Priority Invasive Species and Restoring Native Biodiversity will control rogue plants such as the giant hogweed, rhododendron, Japanese knotweed and Himalayan balsam in river catchments on both sides of the Irish border and in Scotland.

It will focus on the River Faughan in County Londonderry, the Newry Canal/Clanrye River, and the River Dee/River Glyde in Co Louth as well as 12 Scottish catchments in the Argyll, Ayrshire, Galloway and Tweed areas.

Also, this week, Ulster Unionist Leader Tom Elliott has expressed his delight over fish habitat improvement work and said that it has been an issue of great concern throughout 2010.

"I know that the Department of Culture Arts & Leisure (DCAL), Rivers Agency, the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) and the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) have all worked in collaboration with the aim to boost fresh water survival from egg to smolt using scientifically proven habit restoration and enhancement techniques," he said.

"The work that has been carried out so far has seen notable changes in the targeted areas of restoration.
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"I find it heartening to see that the new habitats are functioning and creating the desired effect. The efforts made by the fisheries agency are very encouraging, and it is truly reassuring to see such positive developments," he said.

"I recognise that low marine survival remains a primary concern for DCAL and their partner organisations.

"Therefore, continuing the process aimed at conserving, restoring and enhancing river habitats is vital.

"In this time of economic downturn, this is a commendable scheme which may prove to add to the prosperity in angling as an industry," he concluded.

John Kane, DCAL Senior Fisheries Officer said: "It is very heartening to see your efforts rewarded in this way. I observed the redds during a short break in the freezing conditions in mid December and it was quite clear that fish had dug them recently in the fresh gravels introduced in the autumn.

"It is our hope that our strategic approach to reinstating river habitats for salmonids will sustainably and incrementally increase local salmon and trout stocks and so enhance angling and the angling tourist product in Northern Ireland," he said.

Fish habitat improvement work has been funded and carried out on the Annacloy, Bush, Ballymoney, Ballinderry, Moyola and Ballinamallard rivers and work is planned to improve fish passage at a notorious obstacle on the Lagan.

The main thrust of work on the River Bush is to improve recruitment of parr by enhancing nursery habitat for these young territorial fish. Spawning redds have nonetheless been observed recently throughout the restored reach.

Dr Richard Kennedy of the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute commented on the value of the habitat improvement work: "The new planting has added more value to the stretch and I am looking forward to electric fishing the experimental nursery site next summer as this will be the key measure of success."

(BMcC/KMcA)

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