Northern Ireland

Altagoan River: Rain hampering fish kill investigation

Dead fish
Image caption Inland Fisheries officials are trying to count the number of the dead fish to determine the cost of the pollution

An investigation into a fish kill near Draperstown, County Londonderry, is being hampered by heavy rain which is washing dead fish further downstream.

It is understood a significant number of fish died in the Altagoan River, which flows into the larger Moyola River, on Friday.

The Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) has identified the cause of the fish kill as a slurry discharge.

Inland Fisheries officials are counting the dead fish to determine the cost.

They have been wading along a two-mile stretch of the Altagoan River on Saturday morning, but wet weather has made the task more difficult.

Norman Henderson of the NIEA said: "They face a few practical difficulties doing that [counting fish], in that there has been quite heavy rain overnight.

"It washes dead fish downstream, so it makes it more difficult to find," he said.

"The nature of rivers are that they are living systems and fish will migrate and replenish the river so it will recover, but it will take a wee while."

Image caption Anglers went to the river to survey the damage on Saturday

Moyola Angling Club describes the Moyola River as "one of Northern Ireland's premier salmon and dollaghan [Lough Neagh trout] rivers".

The club said it also boasts healthy stocks of native brown trout.

The pollution of one of its tributaries is a significant blow to local anglers.

"It's totally devastating for myself and the club," fisherman Ciaran Bradley said.

"The club has been working for years to try to bring back salmon and dollaghan and trout into the system, and the system has improved this past 10 to 15 years."

Image caption Ciaran Bradley said it was "heartbreaking" to see pollution killing fish stocks

He added that November was the worst time of year for a pollution incident as it would have maximum effect on spawning fish.

"This is only a feeder stream - the Altagoan River - of the main River Moyola, and at this time of year trout and salmon and dollaghan come up here and spawn, and its just heartbreaking," Mr Bradley said.

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