Credit: Jonathan Casey

State agency launches investigation after up to 2,000 fish die in Co Clare

An investigation is continuing after a serious incident near Ennistymon in Co Clare in which up to 2,000 fish died.

Inland Fisheries Ireland, the environmental state agency which is responsible for protecting, managing and conserving Ireland’s inland fisheries and sea angling resources, launched the investigation after reports of fish kill began to surface over the weekend.

Local man Paudie Fahy alerted Gript to the “major fish kill” on a tributary of the Inagh river below the country market town of Ennistymon on Friday. There is speculation locally as to whether a discharge of sludge containing ferric sulphate, a chemical used as a coagulant in the water treatment process, was dumped in the river – which is located beside a water treatment plant.

“I came across the fish out walking. There were dead fish all over the place. I observed upwards of 100 fish – eels, trout, salmon, rudd, etc – from the confluence with the Inagh river below the Falls Hotel right up to the water treatment plant on the Kilfenora road,” he told Gript, providing photos of the fish kill taken by another local man:

Credit: Jonathan Casey
Credit: Jonathan Casey
Credit: Jonathan Casey 

Mr Fahy said that the incident should serve as a source of further disappointment directed at state bodies, who he said “continuously disregard the environment under their protection.”

Credit: Jonathan Casey

Mr Fahy pointed to the area where the fish were found being under an Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) – an EU directive which has the objective of protecting natural habitats of EU and Irish importance. The legal basis on which SACs are selected and designated is the EU Habitats Directive, transposed into Irish law by the European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations 2011 (S.I. No. 477 of 2011), as amended.

The Directive lists specific habitats and certain species which must be protected within SACs. The 25 Irish species which must be protected include Otter, Salmon, Bottlenose Dolphin, Freshwater Pearl Mussel, and Killarney Fern. Mr Fahy said the development is particularly concerning in the context of the Directive.

In a statement on Monday, Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) said it was “continuing to investigate a serious incident near Ennistymon in Co Clare in which up to 2,000 fish have died.”

“The fish kill occurred on the Ballymacraven River in Co. Clare and spread for 2.6 kilometres in length to where the Ballymacraven River meets the Inagh River,” it said.

“Species of fish discovered dead include a large number of eel, along with salmon, trout, rudd and flounder, of all ages,” the State agency said.

IFI said it first became aware of the ecological issue in recent days after a member of the public informed staff of a rusty red colour on the river.

“Water sampling work was subsequently undertaken to assess the quality of the water. IFI is not in a position to confirm the specific cause of this fish kill at this early stage, but our investigations are continuing,” it said.

Local councillor Liam Grant highlighted the incident on his social media on Monday. The Clare County councillor said he would do his “best to ensure” that those responsible received heavy fines, and that a restoration project was funded going forward.

“There was a major fish kill event last week at the Ballymacraven river which joins up with the river Inagh behind the falls hotel in Ennistymon. Sadly, 100s of fish died as the river was poisoned. I’ve been in touch with inland fisheries, the EPA and other environmental organisations and there is an investigation ongoing,” he said.

“I’ve also contacted Irish Water to carry out an investigation and to make a public statement as to whether the Ballymacraven water treatment plant located nearby had anything to do with the incident. There’s a lot of speculation as to whether a discharge of sludge containing ferric sulphate, a chemical used as a coagulant in the water treatment process was dumped in the river, which would explain the discolouration.

“This has happened before in other parts of the country and I’ve heard of it happening here in the past. I’m going to do my best to ensure the culprits are heavily fined and a restoration project is funded. RIP little fishes,” he wrote.

Meanwhile, IFI reminded the public that they can report instances of fish kills, pollution or illegal fishing nationwide by calling its confidential 24/7 number, 0818 34 74 24.

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