MONDAY, March 4, 2013 was a dark day for anglers and conservationists alike.
The beautiful little Ravarnet river which flows into the Lagan just outside Lisburn suffered a serious farm pollution incident which came from a tributary which flows in above Ravarnet village.
All fish life suffered a total wipe-out to where it joins the Lagan and beyond. The farmer in question said that it was an equipment failure and he was sorry. Well, in my opinion, this is just not good enough.
The punishment for such environmental disasters does not fit the crime. Just last year, at the pollution location, I watched a family of otters playing in the river, and kingfishers and dippers and other wildlife were abundant... where are they going to go now? They had made the river their home and food source.
This is not just about the about the fish, it’s about a whole eco-system being destroyed by human beings.
Salmon and sea-trout are now running the Lagan after an absence of more than a hundred years and Ravarnet river was the main spawning tributary for them. But not anymore because of poor farming practices.
The Northern Ireland Environment Agency Pollution Team has found the source and the farmer who committed this callous crime but too little too late.
They said that just under one thousand fish were killed. I and a friend went there just a few days later and fish were lying dead in every pool the whole length of the river. I personally believe the death toll is many thousands higher. And what about all the very young fish which had just hatched from the spawning beds and are so small that they cannot be seen or counted?
I personally practiced 100% catch-and-release, had built groynes and placed gravel at various locations to enhance the fish stock which had been increasing every year. It breaks my heart to know that all my hard work over the years was in vain. You have to say to yourself, Why would tourists come to Northern Ireland to fish our rivers when this sort of environmental crime is allowed to happen time and time again?
Just to finish on a couple of points which I feel are relevant. Firstly, Ravarnet cannot be stocked with stock-fish or fish from another river as it would destroy the gene-pool of indigenous Ravarnet and Lagan strain.
The river will eventually heal itself as fish will drop down from the upper river and repopulate the poisoned stretch but this will take ten years, a time-scale which I personally might not have to see this happen.
Or maybe this letter is just a waste of time as it might just get poisoned time and time again before it has time to recover.
And secondly, why does the DoE give planning permission to let farmers build their slurry and septic tanks just yards from our water courses?
Surely they should be built at a safe distance from our rivers and if an accident does happen the slurry or other waste could drain into the land or pit and not straight into a river.
Those of you who may wish to register a complaint regarding this incident may do so at the either of following two web sites: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org