Bessbrook fish kill “heart-wrenching” says local angler

July 28, 2014

The pollution of a section of the Bessbrook River which killed dozens of fish has been described as “heart-wrenching” by a local angler who has fished there since his childhood.

Effluent from a nearby farm has been blamed for the major fish kill which was first reported on Wednesday, the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) revealed.

At least 60 fish were killed in the incident described as being of “high severity”, though that number is expected to rise considerably when a full investigation of the river has been completed.

Norman Henderson from the NIEA said a stretch of the river about several miles had been affected, although the agency had received reports of dead fish as far down as the Newry canal.

“The Bessbrook River flows into the Newry canal and then makes its way down through Newry into Carlingford,” he said.

The NIEA has collected samples with a view to pursuing appropriate enforcement action, once the investigation is complete.

“We put together the evidence and we take it to court and it’s then up to the courts to impose the penalties that they see fit. Some of the penalties are quite severe,” Mr Henderson said.

Keith Fleming has fished on the Bessbrook River since he was a child and says the affected area of the river is popular with anglers.

“It’s sort of heart wrenching for us to see so many fish dead – it’s a river that I was brought up in.  It’s where most of the anglers around here would have learned to fish as children so it’s not a nice thing to see,” he said.

“The stretch of the river that has been polluted will be dead for the rest of the year because a lot of that stuff would kill all the aquatic life in the river, so it’s not good for an angler to see that.”

Mr Fleming said the river contained brown trout, eels and pike.

He said more must be done to prevent such incidents happening in waterways.

“I know farmers are under pressure because of good weather to get their silage in.  But we need to look after what we have because we have some very good lakes and rivers and I think we just need to look after them a lot, lot better,” he said.

Stormont Environment Minister Mark H Durkan said he was “concerned” to hear about fish kill.

“I will be monitoring developments here closely along with NIEA officials,” the Minister said.