Foyle Oyster call for independent investigation

The MMV Ostrea from the back.
The MMV Ostrea from the back.

Oyster fishermen have called for an independent probe into the cause of the sinking of a Loughs Agency’s MMV Ostrea.

Liam O’Brien from the Foyle Oyster Sub Committee said they have repeatedly expressed concerns over the fitness of the monitoring vessel to inspect local fisheries, including with the Oireachtas as far back as 2010.

Mr O’Brien said there were also worries over the potential impact of diesel leakage.

The MMV Ostrea was purchased from New Zealand back in 2009 for the Loughs Agency and it is insured for £1.8m. Mr O’Brien said: “A lot of money spent to get it here. They have taken it back here and they altered the boat but it has still been hampered with problems.

“They didn’t have to spend that much money on that vessel, there were other vessels that could have been bought and they could do the job much better,” he said.

A spokesman for the Loughs Agency responded: “The vessels shallow draft allows scientists from the Loughs Agency, academic researchers and staff from other government agencies to maximise the amount of time they can work within the shallow waters of Lough Foyle.

“The Loughs Agency conducts regular sampling campaigns for shellfish hygiene on behalf of the Food Standards Agency in NI and the Food Safety Authority of Ireland to protect the health of seafood consumers and to ensure traceability for the shellfish industry.”

He added that the assessments led to management advice which will have an impact on fishing activity for oysters and mussels.