Video: 400% increase in illegal Lough Foyle oyster beds, says McIlveen

A 400 per cent increase in illegal oyster trestles on the Inishowen side of Lough Foyle is causing a navigation issue, Fisheries Minister for the North, Michelle McIlveen, told the Stormont Assembly on Monday.

The Minister claimed there was an “illegal fisheries” issue in Lough Foyle.

She said: “There is an issue with illegal fisheries in the Foyle.

“There has been a substantial increase in the number of unregulated oyster trestles - in excess of 400 per cent on the Donegal side of Lough Foyle in recent times - which is causing a navigation issue, particularly hazard and risk, and a general health and safety hazard in the lough.

“It is not possible to issue licences because of what is happening.”

The Minister provided details of the unregulated fisheries in response to a query from Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) MLA Robin Swann who asked how many licences had been issued for aquaculture by the Loughs Agency for Lough Foyle.

She provided the details of the illegal trestles when asked what work was being undertaken to ensure that there were no illegal beds being set down.

According to the Loughs Agency “shellfish aquaculture has been practiced for over a century in Lough Foyle and Carlingford Lough, however it is only in the last 20-30 years that aquaculture has really begun to grow markedly as an industry in these sea loughs”.

“Fish farmers need to find a suitable area on the seabed or on the seashore to grow their shellfish.

“Once they have found a location they must ensure that their shellfish farm will not have any negative impacts on the environment in that location,” the Loughs Agency have stated.