Local anglers and environmentalists have welcomed the Department of the Environment’s new protocol for dealing with fish kills on Northern Ireland’s waterways.
The new code of practice was developed following meetings between department officials and local anglers, environmentalists and political representatives in the wake of devastating fish kills on the Sixmile, Ballymartin, Threemilewater and other rivers.
The protocol is designed to ensure that appropriate evidence is gathered in the event of a fish kill, and that there is good communication between all those with an interest in the fishery involved.
According to the department, there will now be:
A standard methodology for the investigation of fish kills;
Detailed guidance on where to sample in the case of an ongoing kill;
The incident will be overviewed by a senior member of NIEA staff to ensure sufficient resources are allocated to the investigation; and
Involvement of local angling clubs and stakeholders in the investigation.
Environment Minister Mark H Durkan commented: “I have met with a number of anglers’ associations and listened to their concerns. I promised them that we would produce a protocol for dealing with fish kills. Partnership with them when investigating fish kills is at the heart of that. With ever diminishing resources I also welcome the dedication and enthusiasm of volunteers willing to give up their time to protect our environment in this way. We are all interested in better water quality and by working together we can ensure we target our efforts at those who pollute our waters.”
Michael Martin of the Six Mile River Trust added: “This is a major step forward as NIEA have seen a reduction in funding and resources so the way forward is a working partnership with NGOs such as the River Trusts so that they have local knowledge at their disposal immediately and support to monitor and identify pollution.
“I look forward to the Trust integrating fully with government agencies. Already we have set up independent pollution monitoring stations to identify pollution through aquatic invertebrate kick sampling, erected pollution hotline signs, carried out habitat improvement work etc. The skills of our varied membership of anglers, birdwatchers, canoeists etc should be fully utilised to protect and enhance the environment - it’s a great resource available for free.”
The new protocol has also been welcomed by Robbie Marshall of the Ulster Angling Federation, who said: “We very much welcome being involved with the development of this protocol and to working more closely with NIEA to help identify those who pollute our waterways.”