Northern Ireland

Lough Neagh: Rubbish deposited by high waters land in nature reserves

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Media captionA large volume of plastic has washed up along the shore, close to the mouths of rivers, as BBC News NI's Conor Macauley reports

Huge amounts of rubbish have been deposited by high waters caused by winter storms in key nature reserves around Lough Neagh.

A large volume of plastic has washed up along the shore, close to river mouths.

It has also been concentrated in the north east of the lough, around Antrim.

Among the items at Farr's Bay, near Randalstown in County Antrim, are hundreds of plastic bottles, a baby bath and a sharps box for disposing of needles with the needles still inside.

Image caption A sharps box containing needles was among the items found at Farr's Bay near Randalstown

Farr's Bay is one of 40 national nature reserves in Northern Ireland.

The sites are described as "nationally important wildlife sites, managed to conserve the natural heritage".

The reserve is owned by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development's (DARD) forestry division and managed on its behalf by the Environment Service.

Further along the shore, another national reserve, at Rea's Wood, near Antrim, is also badly affected.

Image caption A baby bath has also been discovered

Access is flooded so the public are unable get in.

But a huge amount of plastic has been left there by the winter weather.

There is everything from fence posts and small plastic items to a child's car seat.

Much of it had been washed down five flooded rivers and into the lough during the December storms.

Image caption DARD said it was trying to establish the location and extent of the litter

The Lough Neagh Partnership, which does conservation work around the shore, said the state of the area after the storms was a "poor reflection" on important resources.

Gerry Darby, a spokesman for the group, said some good work was going on by statutory and voluntary organisations.

He said the partnership hoped to secure funding soon from the Heritage Lottery Fund to train volunteers to pick litter in the worst affected areas.

He said they wanted to "begin to take some of the rubbish away and try and get a feel for the size and scale of the problem".

Image caption Rea's Wood, near Antrim, is also badly affected, with a child's car seat among the items discovered there

Lough Neagh is one of Northern Ireland's most important habitats.

It benefits from extensive European Union protection due to its importance for overwintering and breeding birds.

In a statement, DARD said its forestry divison was aware of the litter and was trying to work determine its extent.

It added that it would "manage any removal required from its land".

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