August 16: Fish kill a reminder of bad old days

A National Geographic article from the 1970s described the Maigue system as one of the finest trout fisheries in the world.

A National Geographic article from the 1970s described the Maigue system as one of the finest trout fisheries in the world.

Sadly those times are gone, with drainage works and the more intensive agriculture practised in the Golden Vale among the primary reasons why overseas anglers are as rare as salmon these days.

Last week’s dreadful fish kill on the Loobagh, following a slurry spill, was a sorry sight for the local fishermen to encounter. Over 1,000 fish, most of them trout but also young salmon, went belly-up.

An investigation into that incident is ongoing and we cannot comment authoritatively on the cause at this stage.

Eamonn O’Riordan, chairman of Kilmallock and Kilfinane Anglers’ Association, said the pollution took him back to the bad old days.

Data from the Environmental Protection Agency shows that, nationally, the number of fish kills caused by agriculture between 2007 and 2009 were 10% of what they were between 1986 and 1988. Major pollution incidents on our rivers today are more likely to have been caused by the local authority than the local farmer.

For all that, nobody can afford to be complacent given the damage caused around Kilmallock last week.

Farmers are often given to biting the hand that feeds them when complaining about the environmental regulations from Brussels. But the water framework and nitrates directives are there with good reason.

But the vast majority of farmers in Limerick do take their duty of care to the environment seriously.

The government, too, has a responsibility to listen to those who live off the land and by the season when they complain of strict “by the calendar” regulations of when slurry can be spread. A common-sense approach is needed for the benefit of all who live in and enjoy the countryside.