29/08/2008

Sammy Goes 'Wild' Over Salmon

There were moves today to protect a Northern Ireland river which hosts wild Atlantic Salmon stocks.

NI Environment Minister Sammy Wilson today has approved a submission which will be sent to the European Commission, urging the designation of the River Faughan and certain of its tributaries as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) for Atlantic Salmon.

Mr Wilson said: "The decline in the number of Atlantic Salmon returning to their native rivers in Northern Ireland, and indeed in many other rivers throughout Europe, is a matter of concern here and elsewhere within the European Union.

"The reasons for this decline have yet to be clearly established but what is evident is the need for us to take action to protect rivers in Northern Ireland which support populations that are of international importance.

"The protection of approximately 37 miles of the River Faughan and its tributaries is an important addition to the 128 miles of river within the River Foyle and River Roe systems that are already protected in accordance with the Habitats Directive."

Like other parts of the United Kingdom and the European Union, Northern Ireland is required under the Directive to protect rivers holding important stocks of Atlantic Salmon and other threatened species and important habitats at risk.
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Northern Ireland has already designated 52 SACs, covering approximately 66,000 hectares.

These host many species and habitat types such as woodlands, peatlands or mountain areas such as the Mournes. This has made a significant contribution to the protection of the Natura 2000 network of sites which extends throughout the European Union.

The move is especially timely with several recent 'fish kills' making the news, most recently with two in Portadown, County Armagh.

The Environment Agency said significant numbers of coarse fish and pike were killed near Shillington's Bridge.

Hundreds of dead fish were discovered in Moneypenny's Lock, off the Newry Canal, on Tuesday.

There was no evidence of pollution, but low oxygen levels in the water may have been a factor in both incidents, due to large quanitites of mud and plant debris on the bottom, due to this month's heavy rain and flooding.

Also during August, there was a large turnout as concerned fishermen and locals met to discuss repeated fish kills into one of the main tributaries to Lough Neagh.

The meeting followed several serious fish kills that occurred then on the Ballymartin River in Co Antrim, thanks to pollution being blamed on the nearby industrial estate at Mallusk.

See: Fish Kills Targeted

(BMcC)

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