A beginner’s guide to fracking: 3 fracking and fishing

As local knowledge about the potential impacts of fracking grows, fishermen in Co. Fermanagh and beyond are becoming increasingly concerned that fracking poses a serious risk to the future of fishing in the county.

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Lough Melvin
Lough Melvin is recognised as a rare and delicate eco-system and has been designated as an ASSI and also a SAC and requires special protection.
– a game fishery with a ‘no stocking’ policy.
– one of the few remaining wild brown trout and salmon fisheries in Europe and home to a healthy migratory run of wild Atlantic Salmon.
– the only Lough in Northern Ireland to have a population of Arctic Char.
– home to three distinct species of trout – Sonaghan, Gilaroo anf Ferox.
Sonaghan is genetically unique to Lough Melvin and has inhabited these waters for over a million years. Research has shoown that the DNA imprint of the Sonaghan matched no other fish in the brown trout family anywhere in the world.

Lough MacNean
Lough MacNean is classified as a course fishery with excellent stocks of Bream, Perch, Rudd Roach Hybrids and Pike.
– Catches in excess of 20lbs recorded from Lough MacNean.
– It holds a stock of quality brown trout that run its two main rivers to spawn and reproduce ie. the blackwater and Glenfarne rivers.

Lough Erne
– The Erne system consists of Upper and Lower Lough Erne and has a world class reputation for course and game angling.
– Lower Lough Erne is a large expanse of water, over 25 miles long.
– Lower Lough Erne is famous for Mayfly fishing.
– Upper Lough Erne is one of teh finest pike fishing lakes in Europe and links to the Shannon system, the largest river system in the British Isles.

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Potential risks to fishing from fracking
– A network of 20 small loughs and 150 streams rivers extend over a radius of 25km from Lough Melvin and Lough MacNean catchment areas. Six km uphill from Lough Melvin is the centre of the frack zone.
– This network of waterways is the lifeline for fish stocks – eg salmon run these rivers to spawn and reproduce with the young fry residing in the rivers for two to three years.
– Millions fo gallons of water are required to frack a single well; where will where will the water come from to frack 1440 wells and where will it end up?
– Flow-back fluid from fracked wells will contain toxically high levels of salt and other chemicals. If this fluid leaks into surrounding streams and rivers there will be large scale, long term contamination.
– If spawning streams and rivers are contaminated, fish stocks and aquatic life will be killed. The diminished fish stocks and risk to indigenous species may be so severe that our lakes and rivers may never recover.

Fishing and the local economy
– Anglers come to Fermanagh from all over the world to enjoy a unique fishing experience in clean waters and tranquil rural setting.
– There are 4 major competitions held annually:
1) The classic Fishing Festival
2) The World Pairs Fishing Festival
3) The Pike Classic
4) The Lough Melvin Open Trout Angling Championship
Annually, these events attract 1000 anglers from across Europe to Fermanagh.
– Local clubs host a further 8-10 fishing competitions each year which bring significant benefits to rural areas.
– Almost 3000 angling licenses are sold in Co. Fermanagh annually, 85% of the total NI
sales, generating direct revenue in excess of 178,000GBP.
– In 2005, teh angling industry alone was identified as underpinning 778 full-time jobs in Fermanagh.

To download this information as a printable pdf, visit our flyers page.

Areas of Special Scientific Interest 1: Lough Melvin

County Fermanagh, as its proud residents and delighted visitors know, is a region of extraordinary beauty with unique landscapes and unrivalled habitats for rare species of wildlife and plants. This link takes you to the Northern Ireland Environment Agency’s list of Areas of Special Scientific Interest in the county, many  of them in West Fermanagh, in or close to the area where shale gas extraction is planned.

The photograph on the left shows Lough Melvin, about which the Agency writes:

“Lough Melvin is a large mesotrophic lough of high scientific interest for its flora and fauna.The ASSI includes the open waters of the lough in addition to a range of associated wetland and terrestrial communities.

Habitats include swamp communities, boulder and rock shore, fen, woodland and species-rich grassland. This wide range of habitats is reflected in the diversity of plant and animal communities present.
Plants with a restricted distribution in the British isles include lesser meadow-rue, chaffweed, fragrant agrimony, upland enchanter’s-nightshade, northern bedstraw, slender-leaved pondweed and water lobelia.
Blue-eyed-grass and globeflower are of particular note and occur on Schedule 8 of the Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985.

The waters of the lough are unpolluted and in a relatively pristine state and support a unique salmonid fish community which dates back to the end of the last Ice Age. Three distinct sub-species of trout are found in Lough Melvin : sonaghen, gillaroo and ferox; providing one of the few examples of a once widespread situation of sympatric populations.
There are also stocks of the rare Atlantic salmon which is listed in Annex II of the EC Habitats and Species Directive and the Arctic charr, an Irish Red Data species.”

This is, of course, just one of the many “protected areas” within the bounds of the licence granted to Tamboran Resources. We’ll be featuring more of them in future posts. Meanwhile, if you’re concerned at the prospect of hydraulic fracturing here, please read our “What can I do?” page and think about signing the petition to the Northern Ireland Assembly.