The Northern Ireland Environment Agency is continuing to investigate the cause of a fish kill on the Sixmilewater river.
Dozens of dead fish were found along the stretch of river between Ballyclare and Doagh on Wednesday, October 29. The cause of their deaths is not yet known.
The Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) confirmed that it received reports about the fish kill from local anglers shortly after 11am.
“An NIEA Water Quality Inspector was immediately tasked to the area to investigate the report and determine the environmental impact,” a spokesperson said.
“The NIEA investigation has not yet identified any immediately obvious source or symptoms of pollution.
“Investigations are ongoing to determine whether there has been any polluting discharge to the watercourse including collected samples from potential sources of pollution in the area.
“Following set procedures, the Department for Culture Arts and Leisure (DCAL) Inland Fisheries Group was informed of the fish kill and its staff are also on site assessing the numbers and extent of the fish kill.”
Members of Ballynure Angling Club, who have worked hard over recent years to enhance the natural habitat to improve the river environment, have been left “devastated” by the latest pollution incident.
Michael Martin, vice chair of the Sixmilewater River Trust, said that hundreds of trout, salmon and dollaghan have been killed.
“It’s very disappointing to think that someone could be so selfish,” he said. “This river this year has seen the biggest run of dollaghan in living memory and we have had anglers from all over the UK over here to fish for this unique fish and now someone has been so selfish to put something in the water that has killed these dollaghan. I just can’t get my head around it.”
Local MP, Dr William McCrea, described the incident as “a tragedy for the local angling community.”
“It is essential that whilst investigation into the cause of this incident is ongoing, that the Department enters into consultation with Ballynure Angling Club to help minimise this devastating blow to local fish stocks,” he said.
Trevor Clarke MLA, who met with anglers at the site of the incident on Wednesday afternoon, called for a more joined up approach from NIEA and DCAL in terms of their investigation in order to ensure that those responsible for the fish kill are identified and prosecuted.
The DUP man said local anglers have been left “distraught” by the latest fish kill and stressed the need for tougher penalties for polluters.
His party colleague, Paul Girvan MLA added: “It’s bad for this to happen at any time, but particularly at this time of year because the fish are spawning. A lot of mature fish have been killed and it is very frustrating for the local angling club who have worked so hard to try to bring the river back from one that was virtually dead to one of the best in Northern Ireland.”
Mr Girvan said he hopes the authorities will take “appropriate action” against those responsible for the fish kill.