The Director of Aquaculture and Shell Fishing for Lough Foyle has said he’s deeply concerned that a considerable number of ‘totally illegal’ sites for oysters farming have been established on the Foyle from near Drung Chapel right up to the border at Kilderry.
Barry Fox, of the Loughs Agency, confirmed the existence of the new sites for trestle grown oysters. a venture that could prove very profitable for those involved.
However, he admitted right now there was little the agency could do about this because an agreement, between the British Crown Estates Commission and the Republic’s Department of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries, for the Agency to manage all aquaculture on the Foyle, has not yet been ‘signed off’.
A number of interested parties who contacted the ‘Journal’ this week claimed this ‘Klondyke’, as they described it, has been prompted by the recent publicity about the disputed ownership of the sea bed in Lough Foyle.
This stemmed from the successful case taken some weeks back by the Committee for a Clean Estuary, in Moville, against Donegal County Council’s attempt to put a sewage outfall into the Foyle.
Our source also said rumours that the Loughs Agency will soon have the authority to licence aquaculture sites had added a furthur impetus to the rush.
This man was concerned about the environmental impact: “In some areas the small rocks have been mechanically cleared off the shore, damaging the winkle fishery and disturbing the inter-tidal benthic system. In other areas the trestles are being placed amongst the existing rocks.
“These trestles are obviously for farming Gigha / Pacific oysters. These farmed varieties are prone to bonamia and pose a risk to the native oyster stock.”
The bonamia claim, however, was dismissed by Mr Fox who said it was inaccurate stating that these oysters are not ‘vector’ which means they neither have bonamia nor are capable of spreading it.
A boat owner in the area who also talked to the Journal had another concern: “These trestle areas are unmarked so any leisure boater using the area at high tide will be in danger of running into the submerged steel trestles. In Treabreaga Bay owners of unmarked sites would be prosecuted by the Marine Survey Office but who will do it in Lough Foyle?”
Mr Fox responded: “Our remit is to licence, develop and regulate aqualculture on the lough..Whatever people have done now will have no legal standing whatsoever when the Loughs Agency take over.”