Fishing restrictions on River Lee as carp almost wiped out at Lough

New angling restrictions have been imposed on a stretch of the River Lee, as one of Ireland’s top carp fisheries faces a virtual wipe-out from a mysterious outbreak.

Fears were expressed last night that it could take years for Cork’s landmark Lough amenity to recover fully from the devastating outbreak, which it is also feared has spread to the privately-owned Belvelly carp fishery near Cobh.

Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI), which is investigating both outbreaks, confirmed last night it had temporarily suspended angling at nearby Inniscarra and Carrigadrohid coarse fisheries in order to reduce the risk of cross-contamination.

“This will be reviewed once the cause of the mortalities is known,” said IFI director Sean Long.

It has also emerged that while samples from the Lough showed a heavy presence of the parasitic fish infection, trichodiniasis, the primary cause of death has not yet been confirmed.

Fish biologist, Bill Brazier, a member of the Cork Carp Anglers Club and founder and editor of angling magazine, Off the Scale, said the number of carp deaths at the Lough was worrying.

By yesterday, almost 400 of its estimated 600-strong carp stock had died and been recovered by IFI staff.

“The majority of the very biggest known and recognised carp have been confirmed dead. It looks like there will soon be very little, if anything, left carp-wise,” he said.

The Lough, which is managed by Cork City Council, faces a massive restocking and rehabilitation programme once the cause of the deaths is established.

The lake will need to be restocked — a complex process, given the legislative and environmental controls governing the import and restocking of carp — and could take up to five years, said Mr Brazier.

He also said there are a number of “bigger-picture issues” to be addressed around the long-term management of the lake, which requires dredging to prevent swamp-like conditions from developing.

Angling at the public amenity on the southside of the city was suspended last week after dozens of carp were found dead in the water. A small number of live fish were securely transported to a specialist fish health unit to identify the infectious agent.

The outcome of those tests, which are being conducted by the Marine Institute, is expected soon.

IFI said any anglers who have been fishing the venue in the last month should carry out appropriate disinfection of their gear.

Local Independent Cllr Mick Finn said he will push for substantial investment in the iconic amenity.

“All necessary measures need to be taken to protect against another such outbreak,” he said.

The Lough is an important wildlife amenity in Cork, providing habitat for a wide range of birds, including many migratory species.

It was hit by an outbreak of botulism some years ago, which led to a ban on the feeding of bread to the birds.

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