No funding will be allocated from Newry Mourne and Down District Council’s budget to restock the Quoile River in Downpatrick.
At the Economic, Regeneration and Tourism Committee (ERT) meeting on 12th October, councillors decided that no money would be spent on restocking the Quoile River with coarse fish writes Laura Barr.
Rowallane Councillor Patrick Brown said he was “very disappointed” that this decision had been made.
Cllr Brown brought forward the motion to ERT committee back in August requesting that they recognise the importance of coarse fishing to tourism and the local economy, particularly in the Quoile river.
The Alliance Cllr further asked committee members to note the proactive approach taken by other councils in NI to restock fish on behalf of anglers and that council would commit to investigate funding for restocking of fish in line with other council areas.
At this time, it was agreed that officers would table a report on the motion.
Council officers engaged with DAERA (Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs) on the requirements, regulations and legal requirements involved with restocking fish into the river and other specific rivers in the district.
However, every cloud has a silver lining. All was not lost. DAERA has confirmed that it is their responsibility to restock the rivers and it was recommended that NMDDC writes to the Department to formally request that they develop and plan the necessary surveys, assessments and approvals from the relevant organisations to facilitate the restocking in the Quoile.
Cllr Brown commented: “While restocking is primarily DAERA’s responsibility, they have been very slow in fulfilling it and that was the reason for my motion.
“Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council spends over £10,000 a year re-stocking Loughgall and as a result it is one of the most successful course fisheries in Ireland – bringing in a significant amount to the local economy in the process.
“Council could have decided to allocate a modest amount toward restocking the Quoile and bringing it back to its former glory – even working in partnership with DAERA to fund this.
“Instead the committee settled for asking DAERA to carry out restocking which they have thus far failed to do for some time.”
Down News contacted the Department for a response to the matter.
A DAERA spokesperson said: “The Department does not usually stock waters with coarse fish, but instead relies on the natural production capability of stocks present.
“The Quoile River was formerly a natural river system that has been impounded for flood defence purposes, but continues to have migratory fish such as salmon, sea trout and eels present throughout the catchment.
“It is also recognised as an internationally important wetland for conservation.
“Any partnership proposals to translocate additional coarse fish into the Quoile system would require a series of surveys, assessments and approvals from a number of organisations and Departments.”
Cllr Willie Clarke said: “I agree with the officers recommendation. It is dangerous for Council to proceed with stocking as it is the responsibility of DAERA. So we need to hold the Department to account.
“I know there was an issue of seals entering the Quoile Pondage through the barrier but that is I undetstand fixed. I would support anything that promotes angling.”
Cllr Robert Burgess, himself an angler, said: “The local fish stocks on the Quoile have been badly predated by a seal(s) and this must be secured before any further measures to improve stocks are in place.”