22nd September

Striving for sustainable resource management in Foyle and Carlingford areas

The Loughs Agency is a cross-border body, exercising a statutory remit for conservation, protection and development across the Foyle and Carlingford catchments. Our objectives for these river systems and sea areas include development of fisheries and aquaculture, conservation and protection of fisheries and sustainable development of marine tourism. The Agency also has a fishery protection function and fisheries and aquatic environment monitoring and reporting responsibility.Carlingford Lough

Loughs Agency fishery inspectors and officers enforce parallel primary legislation and associated regulations within those parts of the Foyle and Carlingford areas that lie within Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.


Monitoring and reporting functions have expanded from the traditional salmonid base with obligations under the EU Habitats Directive and the EU Water Framework Directive. Fish surveys on rivers and lakes are ongoing with data collected being presented to both Inland Fisheries Ireland and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency for incorporation into national reports.

The Agency operates an evidenced-based management system designed to facilitate sustainability of the fishery and aquatic resources within the Foyle and Carlingford areas. Traditionally, Atlantic salmon has been perceived as the most significant resource with monitoring focused on their various life history stages, forming the basis for informed management decision-making.

Monitoring methods include electrofishing surveys for juvenile salmonids; electronic fish counters, redd counting; monitoring of recreational and commercial catch returns and monitoring of water quality. Some of these data sets go back to the 1950s.

In 2010 working collaboratively with Inland Fisheries Ireland, surveys took place on a number of species of conservation importance including river/brook, sea lamprey and European smelt. These surveys provided a baseline from which future studies can be compared. Further baseline surveys are planned for 2011.

These have lead to the development of aquatic and riparian habitat improvement schemes which have been enhanced and supported through the WFD. It is anticipated that continued partnership development and collaborative improvement projects can be developed to improve the ecological status of our water bodies.

The fishery information collected has demonstrated that the Foyle and Carlingford areas provide habitats for a significant diversity of native fish species of conservation importance. Having an appreciation of the habitats that these species favour can facilitate ongoing conservation and protection of these areas.

The Loughs Agency series of catchment status reports provides a mechanism to disseminate the extensive data records that have been collated. Fishery and environmental data is presented within the context of a management strategy while maintaining a focus at the individual catchment scale. The 2010 status reports comprise fourteen reports covering seventeen individual catchments.

Copies of the 2010 catchment status reports are available on the Loughs Agency website under the publications section www.loughs-agency.org

Marine Monitoring

The Loughs Agency operates an extensive programme of marine monitoring primarily for the purposes of sustainable management of the shellfish resources of the two cross-border sea loughs under its remit. The data collected however has many uses and is used by other Agencies, academia, environmental and fisheries consultants and the public.

Since 2004 the Agency has been intensively monitoring the environmental conditions in the sea loughs using in-situ instrumentation that was procured under funding from the INTERREG IIIa programme. These systems record water temperature; salinity; dissolved oxygen; turbidity and fluorescence every 15 minutes.

The Agency’s scientific staff conduct annual stock assessments in the sea loughs; the native oyster fishery in Lough Foyle is one of the last remaining wild fisheries in Europe. Landings have varied over the last 20 years and a boom and bust production cycle is evident in the trends. This is likely to be attributable to heavy fishing pressure, variation in spawning and spatfall success and poor management.

An independent scientific assessment of the fishery by CEFAS in 2006 and 2007 concluded that the fishery was suffering from overfishing and would benefit from regulation.

Regulation was introduced in 2008 and has resulted in a considerable reduction in fishing effort where up to 100 vessels were involved in recent years. Fishing is now limited to September 20 to March 31 and from 6am and 6pm on weekdays only.

The annual stock assessment shows an increasing trend in the numbers of larger oysters and a more normal population structure compared with the situation immediately pre-regulation. The Agency now hopes to implement some of the recommendations for habitat improvement and reinstatement works suggested by CEFAS and the annual stock assessments.

The Agency also reviews statutory monitoring programmes relating to the shellfish hygiene directive or shellfish waters directive. These reviews provide a one-stop- shop for the public, academia, fishermen, other departments and NGOs, in the form of Annual Status Reports for both Loughs which are available from our website.

Marine Tourism

The Agency is responsible for developing marine tourism in Carlingford Lough and the Foyle area seaward as far as Malin Head. Activities include: sea kayaking trails; sailing; sea angling; birdwatching; whale watching; locally produced sea food. The regions offer a rich heritage of prehistoric sites, Norman castles, walled settlements of Carlingford and Londonderry and Victorian seaside resorts such as Warrenpoint and Moville.

Not far from the main Belfast-Dublin road is Carlingford Lough – a sheltered inlet of the Irish Sea flanked by the Mourne Mountains and the mountains of the Cooley peninsula. Viking raiders gave Carlingford its name. This sea inlet exhibits the characteristics of a true fiord: bounded by steep mountains, becoming shallower at its mouth.

The Foyle area runs from Ireland’s most northerly point (Malin Head), eastwards to Mussenden Temple perched above nine miles of Blue Flag beach at Benone and inland to the mountains of Donegal and Tyrone. Whooper swans, geese, waders and duck come from the Arctic to overwinter in the relatively mild conditions of the Foyle valley.

Inishowen is a peninsula bounded on the eastern side by Lough Foyle and the Atlantic. There are marvellous sandy beaches such as Culdaff and Kinnegoe; towering sea cliffs with caves, tunnels and sea stacks for the kayaker to explore; the iconic Malin Head and the beautiful uninhabited island of Inishtrahull, six miles off-shore.


While the function of the Agency is to promote angling it does not see this function in the narrow sense of promotion by means of publicity alone. Wider meanings of ‘promote’ are used, such as to ‘support or encourage’ and ‘advance’.

The Agency assists economic development by marketing the angling resource through web-based and hard publications and attending key angling shows.

The social value of fishing (recreation, cultural heritage) benefits all sections of society. Foyle and Carlingford have many club-based fisheries where fishing offers good value for money. By promoting the resource, the increase in visitor numbers will have a positive economic impact and contribute to the creation of employment.

Budding young anglers are encouraged to take up angling through a series of promotional events.

Game or coarse anglers in either loughs must hold a rod licence (fees vary from £2 for juniors to £16 for adult season). To actually fish a river or lake a permit is required. (These vary in price: juniors DCAL season permit costs £2, allowing the holder to fish several lakes and part of the River Roe; or on the River Dennet a junior will pay £10 for the season.) This is considered reasonable for a river with good populations of wild brown trout and seasonal runs of salmon and sea trout.

There are also plenty of ‘put and take’ fisheries and several coarse fisheries locally. At these fisheries you need a licence and pay a small fee to fish.

For sea fishing you don’t need a licence or permit, as long as you’re not fishing for salmon or sea trout! You can fish from piers, rocks, charter boats or the beach (although you might need a larger specialised rod for beach casting).

The Agency works with the Youth Justice Agency in facilitating reparative activities for juveniles who have been through the court system. Results show a 99% success rate in preventing re-offending. Reparative activities include litter picks, habitat restoration, wheel chair access construction and personal angling development.


The Loughs Agency recognises the value of stakeholder engagement and rises to this challenge through the Riverwatch Aquarium and Visitor Centre. Riverwatch has welcomed over 90,000 visitors since opening in 2002 and has significantly raised the profile of the fisheries, marine and environmental resources through its outreach programmes.

The aquariums at Riverwatch represent freshwater and marine habitats and are stocked with many species native to our own waters. They provide a window to a wonderful underwater world so that visitors can discover what lives beneath the surface. Lobster, crabs, starfish, coalfish, blennys and lots of other unusual marine fish and crustaceans are kept in the deep sea, lough and seashore tanks. Salmon, sticklebacks, minnows, roach and other freshwater fish reside in five freshwater tanks. As well as the aquariums, display and audio visual interpretation tells the story of the unique resources of Foyle and Carlingford catchments.

To compliment the visitor centre are educational outreach programmes available free to schools and community groups. Through these, Riverwatch has excited and encouraged its stakeholders to take an active role in catchment management. For example, ‘Adopt-A-Stream’ involves groups taking ownership of small streams and rivers; monitoring the water quality; organising river clean ups and campaigning if necessary to make improvements. The Angling Academy not only teaches young people to fish but also raises their awareness about what legal fishing is all about; how to fish safely and who to contact if they spot poaching or pollution. This ensures extra eyes on the riverbank and along the coast.

Hatchery in the Classroom; River Studies; Habitat Surveys and a variety of workshops and events, provide a platform to engage and encourage stakeholders to get involved and connect with their local waterway.

For further information on Riverwatch and how to get involved contact the Loughs Agency office in Prehen on 028 7134 2100 and ask to speak to a member of the Riverwatch team.

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