Hundreds of thousands of eels have been killed at the Ballyshannon dam into Lough Erne it has been revealed.
Now Ulster Unionist Environment spokesman, Tom Elliott MLA, is demanding answers on how ESB traps at the Power Station has resulted in the reported major fish kill of over 300,000 young eels.
Elliott said yesterday, “This obvious failure has resulted with hundreds of thousands of critically endangered elvers dead, due to them being starved of oxygen in the holding tanks. I suggest there must be a serious failure or negligence on behalf of those who are supposed to manage this process.
“There have been indications for years that the Ballyshannon Power station has a very damaging effect on not only the eel population, but also the salmon stocks.
“I find it even more appalling that in Fermanagh, eel fishermen have been banned from catching eels over the past number of years in order to replenish stocks, and in one single incident hundreds of thousands of eels have been wiped out.
“I shall be demanding a full investigation into this incident to establish from ESB and others how this incident has happened.
“We must also know what steps they propose to take to re-stock Lough Erne with the elvers that have been lost in this incident.
The endangered eels died in a trap that was supposed to help their migration past a dam.
Traps operated by the Republic’s electricity generating company ESB are supposed to assist the eels’ migration around the hydroelectric power station in Ballyshannon.
This week the ESB made a statement saying an “unfortunate incident” took place over the Easter weekend that resulted in 112kg of juvenile eels, called elvers, being killed.
Sinn Féin MLA Phil Flanagan has said that the responsibility for managing eel and fish stocks on Lough Erne needs to be transferred from ESB to a management body such as the Loughs Agency, which is dedicated to sustainable social, economic and environmental conservation and development of the fisheries and marine resources on a cross-border basis.
“This kill demonstrates the need for responsibility for managing eel and fish stocks on Lough Erne to be transferred from ESB to an organisation dedicated to the preservation of fish and the promotion of angling such as Loughs Agency, which already plays this role in other border areas.”
It is understood no-one was checking the two traps at Cathaleen’s Fall over the Easter holiday weekend when there was a major run of eels up the River Erne.
Albert Keys, Chairman of the Enniskillen Angling Club, reacted saying, “The Lough Erne basin is designated as one environmental area under EU legislation.
“Therefore this incident falls under the stoppage of fish migration under the WFD. There is no get-out clause.
“This has been two years running and two substantial losses of a supposedly endangered species,” he said, adding that there was a similar problem with salmon with over 3,000 losses over the last seven years.
He said Lough Erne needed support and protection.
ESB said it was working with the Northern Ireland Department of Culture Arts and Leisure (DCAL) and Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) in carrying out a full investigation into the incident.
Dr William O’Connor from the European Eel Consultancy in Limerick described the incident as a failure of international significance and estimated that more than 336,000 elvers had died.
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