What does the marine area tell us about upstream conditions?…
Free fencing for farmers along the Owentaraglin and Blackwater Rivers
In December 2018 there was a major fish kill on the Owentaraglin River, a tributary of the Munster Blackwater River in North Cork. Inland Fisheries Ireland officers discovered more than 1,200 fish mortalities over a ten kilometre stretch of the river near the village of Kiskeam, with the cause of the fatalities attributed to a slurry spill.
The Owentaraglin River is an important spawning ground for fish with stocks of salmon, brown trout, eel and stickleback affected. Of particular concern were the significant numbers of hen salmon carrying eggs that were killed in the incident, effectively interrupting the life cycle of the salmon. This tragic event illustrates the consequences of poor slurry management, and it may take years for this section of the river to fully recover.
Unfortunately, this incident has largely overshadowed the good work that IRD Duhallow (a rural development company) has been doing in the catchment through their RaptorLIFE project. RaptorLIFE is a 4.5 year programme (2015-19), whose overarching objective is to bring local communities together to better manage upland and freshwater habitats within the Duhallow area. RaptorLIFE is an ambitious project in terms of scale (large project area joining two Natura 2000 sites) and political sensitivities. For this reason, the project has concentrated on building effective partnerships with the local community and relevant statutory authorities.
RaptorLIFE have been working in partnership with local farmers to improve the health of the Owentaraglin and upper Blackwater rivers through extensive bankside fencing. By excluding livestock from rivers, fencing reduces pollutants such as bacteria, nutrients, and silt entering the water. IRD Duhallow offers farmers with land adjoining these rivers free bankside fencing and alternative livestock drinking sources. Since June 2016, RaptorLIFE have erected 9.2km of new fencing and 38 cattle drinkers, with more lined up at no cost to landowners. By the end of the project, they hope to fence 28km of riverbank. As an added incentive, landowners in the GLAS agri-environmental scheme receive payment for the fencing work done by IRD Duhallow.
In addition to the fencing, RaptorLIFE are helping to protect riverbanks through the planting of native trees on eroding bends, and treating invasive species like Japanese knotweed and Himalayan balsam that are creating erosion and biodiversity problems on the banks. All of these actions are helping to keep silt and nutrients out of the river, creating better habitat for our freshwater fish.
RaptorLIFE would like to acknowledge and thank all of the landowners, supporters and volunteers for their assistance with the project to date. If you would like further information or to participate as a volunteer, you can contact them on Tel: 029-606 33; Website http://duhallowlife.com/raptor-life; or Facebook www.facebook.com/IRDDuhallowLifeProject/
John Ballinger, IRD Duhallow RaptorLIFE Project Scientist
The IRD Duhallow RaptorLIFE Project is supported through the LIFE financial instrument of the European Community