An invasive species could deal a severe blow to Fermanagh’s tourist economy.
The warning comes after a study from the National Diversity Data Centre in the Irish Republic found the widespread growth of Nuttall’s Pondweed throughout the North.
Lough Erne is one of the lakes that has seen the weed – native to North America – take root.
Tourists flock to Lough Erne to sail their boats and take advantage of the stunning scenery on offer.
However, Cllr John Coyle warns that given the weed can hinder navigation of water, if the Lough got a reputation as not being good for sailing, tourists may go elsewhere for their boating pleasure.
He said: “It does seem to be such a dense plant that it could cause propellers from boats to get caught up in it – even sail boat apparatus.
“It could stop people who want to sail their boats on Lough Erne from getting out. It’s vitally important that there is some mechanism is there to help those sailing to do so easily and avoid such hazards.
“If the spread of Nuttall’s is not nipped in the bud, it could be bad for tourism in Fermanagh if word spreads that sailing Lough Erne could be problematic.
“We have a lot of businesses set around the lake shore such as hydro-bikes so we have to be cognisant of anything that could disrupt those businesses.
“We want to get people out on the Lough, to be safe and to enjoy themselves and maybe, this is a hazard that needs to be addressed.”
Cllr Coyle also stated that Council plans to deal with the situation needs the help of the Department of Agriculture, Environment & Rural Affairs (DAERA).
He added: “The Council has a new biodiversity plan which has a section about invasive species. However, the Council doesn’t have statutory responsibility for the removal of it.
“I have contacted DAERA to see what their response to this is because a plan needs to be put in place to remove it so that native plant species in lakes can survive and flourish.”
Cllr Bernice Swift, who is a member of the Council’s Biodiversity Group, insisted that Nuttall’s Pondweed needed to be dealt with quickly before it caused lasting damage to the local environment and economy.
She said: “Invasive alien species spreading in Lough Erne or any of our Rivers is most definitely cause for concern.
“Fermanagh and Omagh District Council has worked alongside partners within the Biodiversity Steering Group, such as NIEA, WaterWays Ireland, local communities and neighbouring Councils in developing and delivering actions within the Local Biodiversity Action Plans to promote, protect and improve biodiversity within the District.
“As a member of the Biodiversity Group I feel strongly it is both our duty and our responsibility to address the matter on all levels – particularly as the introduction or spread of any invasive species both on land and water, threatens our environment, our economy, particularly our tourism product.
“Therefore, we must take action and I encourage everyone to engage the FODC Biodiversity Strategy as a necessary first step to help guide necessary critical change.”
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