But DAERA says it’s off the hook as it has no responsibility for stocking coarse fish
At the full council meeting of Newry Mourne and Down District Council on Monday 4th September 2023, Downpatrick Alliance Councillor Cadogan Enright brought forward a motion seeking DAERA to re-stock the River Quoile with coarse fish.
Local angers have complained to councillors for a number of years about the declining fish stocks, but they argue the Quoile river has not yet been stocked with any significant coarse fish.
And Down News has learned that DAERA’s position is that it will NOT stock the River Quoile with coarse fish as requested by Newry Mourne and Down District Council.
Cllr Cadogan Enright’s Motion said: “Council recognises the importance of Coarse Fishing at the Quoile River and its positive impact on tourism, local economy, health, wellbeing and sports. Council recognises concerns of local angling and conservation groups over the diversity and quantity of the fish stock in the Quoile and the decline of native species. Council will request DAERA to restock the Quoile, prioritising a population increase for Pike, Roach, Rudd and Bream to a sustainable level.”
Speaking after reading the motion to Council and seconded by Cllr Philip Campbell, Cllr Enright said: “In decades past the fishery in the Quoile Estuary was a key attraction for East Down with International Coarse fishing contests being held on the river.
The Quoile river was famous for rudd, pike, perch, and eels.
“Even today, on NI Direct website, the Quoile Basin is the only coarse fishery advertised in County Down.
“Anglers are still being drawn from Hollywood, Bangor, Belfast and Lisburn based on the belief that the fishery is still functioning to an acceptable level.
“However issues over decades has damaged the fishery to the point that re-stocking is needed to bring the fishery back to where it was.
“Prior to sewerage works being upgraded in Downpatrick, Drumaness, Ballynahinch and other settlements in the Quoile Catchment Area, repeated serious spills by NI Water over 15 years turned the river floor at the lower end of the estuary into what the Departments of Environments Rivers website describes as a toxic sludge.
“In severe weather this got stirred up resulting in mass fish kills.
“I have pictures and videos on my web-site from the early 2000’s of tens of thousands of fish being killed along the Quoile. Thankfully the days of Crown Immunity for NIWater have now passed.
“In recent years the Quoile barrier was not being repaired properly and seals entered from Strangford Lough and over a period of years devoured all large pike, perch, eels and bream and severely diminished the shoals of rudd.
“It took 9 years of canvassing DAERA by elected representatives to have the barrier fixed in 2021/2.
“The fishery on the Quoile was one of the key components in the Quoile River Park that was envisaged by old Down Council. A project that seems to have been shelved.
Other aspects of this project included:
- Having NI River Agency and DAERA upgrade the barrier on the Quoile in the same manner as the Lagan to restore navigation and create workable fish-passes to allow salmon up the river again.
- To extend the Quoile River Walk from Downpatrick to the Barrier and link Delamont Park and Killyleagh to Strangford and Castle Ward.
- To create Boardwalks around the Cathedral linking Inch Abbey and the Grove at the Cathedral.
“But the restocking of the river does not need to await any long-term plan for the Quoile before restoring the fishery. We already have many Council and DAERA supported fishing platforms along the river.
“While we understand the Departments usual policy that fisheries should be allowed to recover naturally, too much damage has been done to the Quoile fishery over too many years.
“We now need a managed restocking of the river over a 3 to 5 year period until it returns to its former glory.”
Sinn Féin’s Cllr Philip Campbell seconded the motion and generally other councillors present were in support of the motion which was carried.
It was agreed that Council write to DAERA asking for feedback on the motion.
DAERA SPOKESPERSON CLARIFIES DEPARTMENTAL POSITION
A DAERA spokesperson addressed clarifying questions from Down News regarding the motion to Council and said: “There is no responsibility on any party, including DAERA, to stock the Quoile with coarse fishing.
“The Department does not stock any coarse fisheries in any of our Public Angling Estate.
“And, in line with the scientific advice from the Agri-food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI), [the Department] has no plans to do so at the Quoile in the near future.
“Most coarse anglers practice catch and release and fish populations should therefore be self-sustaining.
“In relation to the Quoile River, anecdotal evidence would suggest there is a good population of rudd, roach and sea trout in the fishery.
“Consideration needs to be given to migratory fish stocks, such as salmon, sea trout and eels, and the impact additional stocked coarse fish may have on the natural equilibrium.”
The DAERA spokesperson added: “The River Quoile from the railway cutting near Inch Abbey to the new barrage gates, and the Quoile Basin between the Old Lock Gates and the new Drainage Gates is a designated coarse fishery.
“This area is therefore open all year round for angling for coarse fish.
“The closed season for game fish still applies there from the 1st of November until the end of February.”
If Council receives a response from DAERA along these lines as discussed above, there local anglers will certainly be disappointed at the outcome. Councillors may choose to discuss the response in more detail and look at options going forward in this complex issue.
It may well also be a question of finding out what the re-stocking experiences and policies of other council areas are.
The issue may again be raised at the next full council meeting on Monday 2nd October.