The fight against river pollution moved to a different plane when MLA Paul Girvan took the matter to the Northern Ireland Assembly at Stormont.
During an adjournment debate on Tuesday South Antrim Ulster Unionist MLA, Danny Kinahan, called on Environment Minister Mark H Durkan, to instigate a thorough review of the Six Mile Water pollution incident reaction plan following the recent serious fish kill near Ballyclare.
Mr Kinahan said: “Fortunately NIEA and DCAL reacted very promptly once the fish kill was reported and were on site very quickly and worked closely with all the members of the Six Mile River Trust, local anglers and the public and all deserve to be praised for their hard work. However much needs to be done to tackle what is becoming a recurring problem.
“We must establish a database of all those who have access to the river, and ensure that all the most likely polluters and pollution sites are immediately checked out and sampled, with the samples independently checked and verified in a fully transparent manner and that, once polluters are caught, they are punished by paying substantial fines. Sadly this has not been the case in the past.
“We simply cannot permit such damage being done to our rivers so often and we really need a thorough review. The Six Mile Water was just recovering from the appalling pollution incident in 2008 which destroyed fish life in the river and in some cases to the bird life that feed on those fish. Kingfishers, dippers and otters were back on the river with dollaghan, trout and salmon in large numbers and the whole river in the midst of spawning when this recent appalling incident occurred. It is not just the eco system that is destroyed but the hobbies and, in some cases, the livelihoods of our anglers.
“We have many experts and enthusiasts who could be trained in sampling and helping on our rivers and we should be forming partnerships and making the most of these readily available resources and concentrate on what the European Water Directive requires us to do. We need to hold to account those who pollute our rivers.
“We need to monitor all consented discharges and we need to carry out all this work in a totally open and transparent way in a timely fashion. Quite simply we must do better,” he added.
“The Six Mile River Trust, the anglers and all those environmentally interested in the Six Mile valley must be congratulated on all their excellent work.
“Government Departments and the relevant Ministers need to work with them and help them by reviewing how we manage our rivers and put in place a more effective and efficient response system to tackle pollution in our rivers. We have to find out who polluted the Six Mile, how it happened and to ensure they pay the price.”
Michael Martin of the Six Mile Water Trust said: “After several years of conservation work the Six Mile Water enjoyed a huge run of big dollaghan from Lough Neagh which attracted anglers from afar.
“Their permit fees will pay for enhancement work to further improve the river and it is sad to see a pollution incident at this stage. More than a mile of river was affected and fisheries inspectors have been stunned to see the size and quality of fish.’’
Meanwhile, there is to be no increase in angling or commercial fishing licences for the 2015 season. DCAL Minister, Caral Ní Chuilín said angling permits for the DCAL public angling estate will be subject to a minimal inflationary rise of 1.9 per cent.
In making the announcement, the Minister said: “I have decided to keep the inland fishing licence fees at 2014 levels. This is the sixth year in a row that there has been no annual increase.
“I recognise that the regulation and prices of recreational and commercial fishing need to be modernised and I have asked my officials to undertake a review of the current arrangements in consultation with stakeholder interests.
“I acknowledge the support I received from anglers and commercial fishermen when I introduced the salmon conservation measures last year on the need to protect salmon stocks. The catch-and-release policy is central to our conservation approach and it is important that anglers continue to provide C&R data to my Department to assist with the future management of salmon rivers.
“The commercial fishing sector, particularly around Lough Neagh and Lough Erne, plays an important part in the socio-economic life of local communities. I am developing fishery management plans for these waters to help realise their full potential and ensure their long term sustainability.”
At Craigmore Martin Allen landed 29 trout to 4lb - 22 on black nymphs and seven on black lures. Martin Foster had 27 on mixed lures and Robert Paul 21 to 4lb.
Other catches were: James Harper, 14; Tommy Wharry 12; Keith Henry, 10 to 5lb; Colin McQuigan, Tom Hobson and David Walker, 10; Adrian Tweed, 11; Pawal Sincia, 12; James Floyd, 10 to 7lb; Jeff Elliot, seven to 6lb; Joe O’Neill, and Maurice Anderson, 12 to 4lb; Graham Turner, eight and his sons, five and three.
At Cashel splendid autumnal weather encouraged anglers to stay with small flies. Newcomers, Gavin and Gary Camphill, Derry, used black and red bibio and a few luminous green blobs to bag four trout to 5lb 2oz. William and Paul Temple, Limavady, used small nymphs to bank three to 4lb which they released.
Andrew Logan, Dungiven, bagged two for 9lb 7oz and released six which fell to glo body damsels. Pat Mullan, Limavady, and Kevin Mullan, Meath, had five for 13lb 4oz which took the f-fly. Shaun O’Doherty, Donegal, used the viva and a multi coloured lure with a sparkle to bag two for 8lb 12oz. Sean Cottle and Stephen Gurney, Limavady, had two for 6lb 4oz and released four which took a small orange lure and a small orange and black fly. James Wilkinson, Claudy, released 12 which took a lime green buzzer. Andrew Logan released four which took his regular nymphs. Gerry Gallagher and James Shiels, Donegal, had four for 12lb. They used green dry flies and green buzzers.
Good news for coarse anglers. Dungannon Borough Council has agreed to permit coarse anglers to fish Dungannon Park Lake until April. Some anglers have had great bags of coarse fish over the past few weeks on the lake.
The Ulster Angling Federation has paid warm tribute to Mr Cecil Stolworthy, its former Director and Chairman, who died recently. His funeral which took place at Roselawn crematorium on Tuesday was attended by a wide circle of friends from the angling world.
UAF chairman Jim Haughey said Cecil was a long time supporter of angling clubs and the work of the Federation. Jim said Cecil had, over many years, made a magnificent contribution to the betterment of angling in Northern Ireland.