A local man has described his shock after coming across hundreds of dead fish in the River Faughan in what has been termed today ‘an ecological disaster’.
Lucan Newland captured the disaster on film while out walking with a friend yesterday.
Mr Newland, who has also fished the river in the past, said: “Me and a mate were down walking and he brought a dead fish to my attention and then I brought one to his.
“It seemed to be every step we took there was more and more fish, everything from young salmon fry, yearlings up to massive salmon, sea trout, brown trout, everything.
“I covered a 1.5 to 2 mile stretch and every footstep I took there were three to four dead fish.
“With so many salmon fry affected, I dread to think what will happen in the next cycle.
“This is on a grand scale. It is a disaster, the worst this river has ever endured. It is taking no prisoners.”
Mr Newland said the Faughan was a major tourist attraction for anglers across the north west, including the far reaches of Donegal, and that the disaster was likely to affect people coming to the area.
“A lot of people care about it, and there are mixed emotions- anger, sadness; there’s a lot of people badly hit.”
Concerns have also now been raised over the fact that the Faughan supplies 60% of Derry’s drinking water.
Stormont MLAs were today called upon to examine what has been termed an “ecological disaster”, with initial reports suggest that at least 1,000 fish have been killed along a 20 mile stretch from Claudy to the tidal reach.
Foyle People Before Profit MLA Eamonn McCann today warned that from being one of the best salmon rivers in Europe, the Faughan is now in crisis.
“In the worst scenario, it could decline towards the status of a backwater,” he said.
“The dedication of anglers, environmentalists and other campaigners will likely ensure that this doesn’t happen. But if the life of the river is saved, it will be little thanks to officialdom.
“The Faughan is a precious resource. It should have been cherished and properly cared for.
“There are many dedicated, responsible people within the relevant statutory agencies. But all who have been campaigning on issues affecting the river over recent years will know that the indifference towards it has not been on an individual basis but has been institutional,” Mr McCann has claimed.
Mr McCann has now today written to the clerk of the Infrastructure Committee at Stormont, of which he is a member, asking that this disaster and the issues arising from it be put onto the agenda of the first meeting of the committee when the Assembly resumes.
“I will be asking the committee as a whole to travel to Derry to look at the area for themselves and consider the appalling damage perpetrated on our local environment”, he said.
Sinn Féin Councillor for the area Paul Fleming said today: “It’s important that a full investigation is carried out to find the source of this pollution.
“Sinn Féin is committed to the prevention of pollution of Ireland’s water systems and rivers.
“Anyone who is found to be in breach of operational standards and environmental regulation must be investigated and prosecuted.”