Trust aims to protect waters of the Iveragh Peninsula

Environment Watch - Rob Robinson

Increasing human pressures on our lakes, rivers, streams and coastal waters are impacting upon our vulnerable native wildlife and fish stocks.

Even minor changes to the natural habitat can have a dramatic effect on our native species. Healthy vibrant rivers and lakes, supporting healthy fish populations, not only provide opportunities for relaxation in a natural environment and give people a profound sense of wellbeing, but they also underpin a greater biodiversity. Recreational fisheries, with the economic benefit they bring to these remote Atlantic Coast communities, are equally dependent on a pristine fresh and salt water environment.

As the Environmental Protection Agency moves forward with its draft River Basin Management Plan, part of its response to the current cycle of the EU Water Framework Directive to achieve 'good status' for all waters in Ireland, the importance of local, catchment based, community involvement becomes paramount.

The Rivers Trust Movement, originally started in the UK, now covers the whole of Ireland and we are seeing new Rivers Trusts being set up to better involve local communities in the care and protection of their own fresh and salt water environments.

The Waterville Lakes & Rivers Trust, formed by concerned volunteers in 2016, is one of the new Rivers Trusts to be set up in Ireland and is currently aspiring to Charitable Status. Its remit is to protect the fresh and coastal waters of the Iveragh Peninsula..

The catalyst for the establishment of the Trust was the year on year decline, both in the runs of Atlantic salmon into the catchments and in the stocks of the unique multi-sea winter strain of sea trout for which Waterville is famous throughout the world. These species are now under serious threat, particularly in their saltwater environment.

The new Trust is currently running three programmes to try to mitigate against the marine threats to these iconic species and are initially aimed at conserving the lakes, rivers and streams of both the Cummeragh and Inny catchments in the Waterville area.

The 'Small Streams' programme involves the management of dozens of streams within the Cummeragh Catchment, where debris and blockages are cleared and gravels enhanced to provide improved habitat for salmon and sea trout on their annual spawning migration. This work is carried out entirely by local volunteers and is already showing promising results. On a recent stream survey many more juvenile fish were seen in these streams than were previously present. This work is now being extended into the adjacent Inny Catchment.

The Salmon Conservation Rearing Programme, initiated by the original volunteers in 2011, is now managed by the new Trust. Based in the 'Old Hatchery' building on the upper Cummeragh River, the programme involves the stripping of eggs from a few salmon caught up on the river in the winter. The eggs are then hatched out in the facility and the young fish reared to parr stage before being tagged and released back into the streams. This programme is enabling a better understanding of the salmon stock dynamics in the catchment and will, in the future, more precisely focus the conservation effort.

The new Trust is already running an education programme, involving local national schools in its 'Adopt a Stream' project, where local children 'get their feet wet' exploring the invertebrates and other flora and fauna in their adopted streams. Each year the transition year students from Coláiste na Sceilge in Caherciveen visit the Catchments as part of their curricular activities and the 'Old Hatchery' welcomes many casual visitors to view and find out about the ongoing work of the Waterville Lakes and Rivers Trust.

For more information about The WatervilleLakes & Rivers Trust and how you can become involved go to: www.watervillelakes.com

Kerryman

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