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Oyster fishing "under threat" 23.01.11

by Caoimhinn Barr, Inishowen Independent

ONE of the last remaining native oyster fisheries in Europe, the Foyle estuary is under increasing threat both from years of over-fishing and the arrival of the deadly bonamia parasite, according to the Loughs Agency.
At an Inishowen Area council meeting in Carn, delegates from the agency in charge of the Foyle said that oyster fishing here must be carefully managed to ensure its survival.
“Stocks have exhibited signs of being over-fished and we must reduce the amount of oysters removed from the Foyle to safeguard the practice for future generations,” said Ciaran McGonigle, of the Loughs Agency.
“There are also a number of beds near Culmore where a significant number of oysters have been infected with bonamia. We have banned fishing in this area to see if reduced stress will allow the stock to recover.”
While the Lough’s Agency could not be sure how the disease spread to the Foyle, it suspects that illegal movement of mussels from the west of Ireland to the Lough is the most likely cause.
Local councillor Martin Farren said it was imperative that the shellfish industry in the Foyle be protected.
“We depend on the shellfish industry to rear families in our area and it must be looked after. The men who fish for oysters and mussels must be looked after and listened to. I think the oyster and mussel men need to work out a plan to do what’s best for the area in the future,” he added.
The Loughs Agency said it remained open to meeting with local fishermen to formulate a strategy for the future.

**In a separate development on Saturday, the Lough Foyle Oyster Sub-Committee offered prior notice to the Loughs Agency that a number of oyster fishing vessels would be exercising their traditional oyster fishing rights on Saturday, January 22, 2011 between the hours of 9.30 am and 11.30 am. "This is a legitimate protest against the Loughs Agency and the regime that they act within, that which we are totally opposed to as loyal custodians of the public native oyster fisheries in Lough Foyle," said a spokesperson.
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