60,000 unregulated oyster trestles are ruining Lough Foyle.
That was the claim made this week by Inishowen councillor, Terry Crossan.
He was speaking on a motion he had before a Donegal County Council meeting in Letterkenny in which he said action was now needed to resolve the issue.
Cllr Crossan said the ongoing proliferation of oyster trestles on the western shore of Lough Foyle was having a severe detrimental effect on both the environment and society in the local area.
He said it was now up to the council to contact the minister concerned and impress on him the need for the government to engage with the UK government and seek to resolve the jurisdictional issues that are inhibiting aquaculture regulation.
He said the main overriding regulatory issues are the lack of a licence and authorisation by a competent authority; the lack of spatial considerations-foreshore licence/leases; the lack of assessed impact on designated features of the Foyle Natura 2000 sites and the knock on effects of the lack of regulations in terms of environmental and socio-economic concerns which could be mostly attributed to a lack of enforcement, traceability and a lack of accountability.
He added the first view any visitor got of Lough Foyle and the start of the Wild Atlantic Way wasn't very picturesque.
“Between Muff and Moville there are almost 60,000 unregulated oyster trestles. Lough Foyle is a major habitat for native and migratory birds, a large area of which is designated a special area of protection (SPA) under the EU birds directive.
“It was of cross-border and high ornathological importance and regularly supported in excess of 20,000 migratory birds,” he said.
The Sinn Fein councillor warned it was now time to protect the shores of Lough Foyle before its beauty and distinct natural and rich habitat was lost forever.
“I am not against aquaculture per se but I ask it should be properly regulated efficiently and effectively and does not cause nuisance and preserves the amenity it provides for the wider community.
“There are many unique ecosystems in this area which are suffering because of this unregulated activity,” he added.
The motion was seconded by Cllr Albert Doherty who pointed out the 25km of Lough Foyle coastline which for historical reasons was part of a territorial dispute with another jurisdiction.
Now with Brexit on the horizon the dispute had come to the fore again despite an agreement between the Irish and British Governments in 2011 to resolve these issues relating to the lough.
“Not only is the Foyle under the remit of the Foyle and Carlingford Commission but it was also under the remit of the Crown Estates because of the seabed.
“The real fishery potential of the lough is not being fully realized,” Cllr Doherty said.
He added if there is to be a North-South Ministerial Council meeting at the end of this month, the council needed to find out what was it that allowed the prolifieration of various developments on the Foyle without regulation as well as the situation regarding sewerage and sewage incidents with outfall pipes going into the Foyle.
Director of Housing, Corporate and Cultural Services, Joe Peoples said the council will write to the Minister about the matter.
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