Annacotty weir needs to be removed to restore fish migration in this internationally important river. Alternatively it could be lowered, and a low gradient rock ramp fish pass installed.
Annacotty weir is located in the lower reaches of the River Mulkear, Co Limerick. This is part of the Lower River Shannon Special Area of Conservation (SAC). This is a relatively minor weir – but it causes a major fish passage problem. The weir has no purpose. It is an ornamental weir that was installed as part of an Office of Public Works (OPW) flood scheme.
The main species affected are River Lampreys and Sea Lampreys which are both Qualifying Interests of this Natura 2000 river. But it’s not just lampreys that are affected – the upstream migration of Atlantic Salmon is also delayed by this weir, and under certain medium flows salmon have great difficulty passing this obstacle. Some salmon never get past, and all are stressed and waste valuable energy trying to scale this difficult barrier. Furthermore this weir blocks the migration of the critically endangered European eel.
I want the OPW, Inland Fisheries Ireland, and Limerick City and County Council to engage with both myself and other interested and committed people who want to remove this fish migration barrier. The problems at this site have been highlighted for many years yet nothing effective has been done. Measures taken by the Mulkear LIFE project at this site did not work. There is widespread support for effective action to be taken to finally address the fish passage issues at Annacotty weir. It is now time for the above government agencies to do what they regularly claim to do – which is to engage with volunteers like myself working on local environmental projects to bring waterbodies back to ‘Good Status’, and Annex II species in Natura 2000 rivers back to Favorable Conservation Status’. I also again commit to work on a pro bono basis to input into the design of a solution for this site, and prepare the required ecological assessments to support the necessary planning application and Appropriate Assessment.
If we can’t address the fish passage issues at this relatively minor weir then how will be ever able to address the major issues on the main River Shannon caused by the ESB dams. Having lampreys confined to the lower reaches of this major catchment makes them vulnerable to impacts such as declining water quality. Lampreys are also blocked on the main River Shannon by the ESB dams so are very confined in this catchment. Salmon are also affected by this weir and are at unfavorable status in this catchment. We have to all we can to help the critically endangered Eel.
Annacotty weir needs to be removed – or lowered with a rock ramp fish pass installed. This would restore fish migration in this large tributary of the Lower River Shannon. This action is required under both the EU Habitats and Water Framework Directives.