There are no fisheries for lamprey in Ireland, yet the state inland fisheries agency – Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) – has responsibility for protecting the three Irish lamprey species. However, are they protecting lampreys in Irish rivers and within Special Areas of Conservation that have been designated for them? Are they doing their job in rivers where there are no fishery interests i.e. biodiversity conservation?
During 2013 Inland Fisheries Ireland undertook a “month of major instream works”, including major weir removal works without Appropriate Assessment, during June-July at the peak of the sea lamprey spawning season in the Lower River Shannon Special Area of Conservation. This follows on from allowing major flood schemes in Ireland (i.e. Ennis and Clonmel) to remove virtually all of the juvenile lamprey habitats within the footprint of these schemes, despite the fact that the Environmental Impact Statements for both schemes were based on a mitigation measure that prescribed that no instream works would occur.
We are campaigning for (1) a formal close season for instream works on lamprey rivers (that is enforced), and (2) that all instream works in Ireland are assessed appropriately in terms of their impacts on lampreys
Inland Fisheries Ireland are also installing crump weirs and salmon counters on most of our salmon rivers, despite the fact that recent research has shown that these structures are impassable for at least two of the three Irish lamprey species. None of the instream development works being rolled out on Irish rivers target lamprey habitats; and indeed these too are both a threat to lampreys when undertaken during the lamprey spawning season, and can also remove lamprey nursery habitats when creating nursery habitats for salmonids.
We are campaigning for (1) a formal close season for instream works on lamprey rivers (that is enforced), and (2) that all instream works in Ireland are assessed appropriately in terms of their impacts on lampreys.
We will also be highlighting that the responsibility for the protection of lampreys in Ireland should be returned to the National Parks and Wildlife, as there are no “fisheries” for lampreys in Ireland and Inland Fisheries Ireland are now themselves a significant threat to all three lamprey species. The photographs in this post shows major instream works on the River Fergus (Lower Shannon SAC) as part of the Ennis flood scheme. The EIS for this scheme stated that there would be no instream works. Instead there were major instream works over two years during the lamprey spawning season, and all ammocoete habitats were removed in the most important areas of the river for lamprey production. Significant damage to lamprey spawning habitats also occurred, along with major disruption to spawning lampreys over two years.
These and other failures of IFI (and other state agencies – in particular the OPW) to protect lampreys in their Irish SACs will be highlighted going forward until lampreys are protected in the SACs that have been designated for them in Ireland.