Fourth Northern Ireland 'fish kill' reported in weeks

More fish have killed in another incident in a NI river
-Credit: (Image: Stock image: Getty)

An investigation has been launched followed the fourth fish kill in Northern Ireland in just four weeks. The Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs says it has taken samples and is investigating following an anonymous tip off.

A DAERA spokesperson told us: "At 12:50 on 18 June NIEA received an anonymous call reporting dead fish in the Ballymoney River. An investigating officer was sent to the site to confirm the report and to assess the environmental impact.

"A fishkill has been confirmed and a potential source has been identified. Samples have been collected in accordance with procedure and the investigation is ongoing. If anyone wishes to report incidents of water pollution they can do so by phoning the Incident Hotline on 0800 80 70 60."

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Gary Houston from the Ulster Anglers Federation told Belfast Live he believes the source of the pollution that caused the fish kill has been found while a count to see how many fish perished is ongoing.

He has been keeping count of pollution incidents killed fish, two of which were in the Lough Neagh catchment area - which means that pollution would eventually wind up in the lake adding to nitrates which sparked last year's catastrophic blue-green algae bloom.

Since May 19, fish kills have been reported in the Sixmile River and Glenavy River (June 13), which both run into Lough Neagh. A fish kill was also recorded in the River Roe on June 6, followed by this latest incident in the Ballymoney River on June 16.

But what are the impacts?

Sixmile River (within Lough Neagh catchment)

A 'major' fish-kill on May 19 left 1,109 brown trout of varying ages dead. It was attributed to slurry pollution in the Four Mile Burn in Newmills, near Doagh, which is a tributary of the Sixmile River. The incident is thought to be farm related.

Glenavy River (within Lough Neagh catchment area)

Pollution affected several miles and resulted in the death of hundreds of 200-300 fish on June 13. The incident was described as shocking by Agriculture, Environment, and Rural Affairs Minister Andrew Muir. It was the latest of 62 pollution incidents recorded in the river since 2011.

River Roe

Hundreds of fish were killed along the River Roe in County Derry on June 16. The Loughs Agency confirmed 700 juvenile salmon and trout died in the incident at Burnfoot, between Limavady and Dungiven, on Friday evening. A spokesperson said at the time its priority was to "identify the pollution" and minimise further damage.

Ballymoney River

This latest incident was reported anonymously on June 18. While the source of the pollution has been found we understand a count of the number of fish killed is ongoing.

Gary Houston said: "These incidents highlight the lack of environmental protection and the need to prevent pollution to safeguard aquatic ecosystems and wildlife. Fish kills were being driven by a number of factors including chemical pollution, agricultural run off, sewage spills and discharge overflows from Northern Ireland Water."

Minister Muir recently outlined his intention to set heavier penalties for pollution from farms, while tougher sentences and fines have also been suggested in a bid to tackle the number of pollution incidents in Northern Ireland. We understand those proposals are included in the Lough Neagh 'rescue plan' and Environment Strategy which are yet to to be passed by the Northern Ireland Executive.

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