A marine expert at the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) has warned artificial reefs near the mouth of Lough Foyle could damage the North West salmon system.
DAERA official Joe Breen told members of the Stormont Environment Committee, the Department doesn’t have an official policy on man-made reefs.
But he suggested the developments would likely find favour among fishermen as “fish-attraction devices.”
He revealed consideration was recently given to the erection of such reefs off Castlerock and The Tuns, the treacherous sandbanks between Inishowen and Magilligan, where, legend has it, the Irish sea god, Manannán mac Lir resides.
Mr Breen was asked about the potential for artificial reefs by DUP MLA Maurice Bradley.
He said: “As a Department, we believe we are sufficient in reef and have the sandbank in that area.
“We do not yet have an opinion on whether we need to add extra artificial reefs. There has been discussion for years about it. Fishermen will see it as an advantage; other people will see it as a disadvantage to navigation.
“In the area that you are talking about, probably off Castlerock and The Tuns, an argument was put up several years ago that putting artificial reefs there would act as fish-attraction devices and give sheltered areas for fish to hang about and wait to feed on smolts coming out of the Foyle system, and that could have a negative impact on the salmon system in the Foyle.”
Mr Breen said the installation of man-made fish habitats is favoured in other parts of the world.
“Again, artificial reef is a big discussion area. We do not have a policy on it yet.
“I know that in other regions, such as the Gulf coast, where they have just sand and nothing else, they are going down the route of putting in artificial reef to enhance a commercial angling industry.
“But we have no views or opinions on that at the minute.”