NIEA Investigates Fish Kill Says McGrath.
A large number of small coarse fish, mainly rudd, and roach bybrids, have been found dead at the River Quoile near Downpatrick.
In the past the river has been prone to occasional algal blooms which have had a serious effect on fish stocks.
However, SDLP South Down MLA Colin McGrath concerned at the fish kill, has welcomed news that the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) are investigating the cause of the incident at the River Quoile.
Colin McGrath said: “Upon hearing reports that a large number of fish were found dead on the banks of the Quoile River, I was really quite horrified. This is an area of natural beauty and a nature reserve which is growing in popularity, and one which I have been working hard to see developed further.
“After learning of the fish kill I made contact with the NIEA who have responsibility for the river. They have launched an investigation into the cause of death of these fish. I am patiently awaiting the outcome of this investigation as we need to be absolutely certain what has caused such a large scale of deaths here.
“The fish kill that has taken place in the Quoile is a disaster for our local environment and biodiversity. There are many other animals and wildlife here that depend on the fish stocks for their own sustainability such as birds.
“It is essential that once the cause of the deaths has been identified that our statutory bodies do all within their power to prevent this happening again. This is something I will be highlighting with DAERA Minister Edwin Poots in the Assembly.”
There has also been evidence in past investigations that the upland tributaries which feed the Quoile river are contaminated with agricultural fertilisers which run off fields and can deplete oxygen levels in the lower regions of the river. Whatever the causes, local anglers are keeping an open mind until the NIEA investigates the incident.
Alliance Councillor Patrick Brown also called for action over the fish kill. He said: “The recent discovery of large numbers of dead fish along the River Quoile is extremely worrying. The Quoile River is a natural landmark in our area, home to varied biodiversity that must be protected.
“I have been working for some time with the local angling community to ensure the Quoile is maintained to the highest possible standard and developed in a sustainable manner that allows it flourish as an environmentally friendly tourist attraction.
“This sudden fall in fish stock levels will not only impact on local anglers but will have substantial consequences for the wildlife living in the surrounding area that rely on the fish stocks for their food source.
“As such, I welcome the news NIEA are looking into this issue, but I have also reached out to DAERA on the matter to ascertain what steps the Department will be taking as custodians of the river. I have asked an investigation into the cause of the pollution that has killed the fish and clarification around how the Department plans to rectify the situation, ensuring a return to normal levels of fish stock.
“It is crucial that we understand what has occurred here so as to ensure proactive measures can be put in place to prevent it happening again,” said Cllr Brown.