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Investigation into deaths of 2,000 fish in River Ilen

July 26th, 2021 7:05 AM

By Jackie Keogh

Some of the dead fishing floating in the River Ilen in Skibbereen last Tuesday. (Photo: Anne Minihane)

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A MAJOR fish kill – possibly one of the biggest ever in the country – was reported in Skibbereen on Wednesday.

Officers with Inland Fisheries Ireland, which is the State agency responsible for the protection and conservation of freshwater fish and habitats, estimate that there were around 2,000 fish mortalities.

They were primarily sea trout, but 50 adult salmon were also counted, as well as numbers of flounder and eel.

The fish kill occurred over a 2km stretch of the river in the centre of Skibbereen town. A number of water and fish samples were taken by Inland Fisheries Ireland Officers at the scene and removed for scientific analysis.

A spokesperson for Inland Fisheries Ireland said the agency is not in a position to comment on the cause of the fish kill at this stage, pending further analysis of samples taken.

The incident was first noted and reported to gardaí at 9am by keen local angler, Martin Doherty.

Martin said he was walking by the Ilen River on the town’s by-pass bridge when a cursory glance revealed lots of small trout and some salmon lying dead on the river bed.

Because the water table was so low he was able to photograph them and he immediately reported the matter to the gardaí and to Inland Fisheries Ireland.

He also spoke with some council officials from Cork throughout the day and he reported the matter to The Southern Star describing what he saw as ‘a devastation of local fish stocks.’

Martin believes a fish kill of this size – which he maintains is the largest in the country – is symptomatic of a serious problem and he suggested that whatever killed the fish could pose a risk to human health, and possibly the town’s drinking water.

In addition to Inland Fisheries Ireland, The Southern Star contacted Cork County Council and Irish Water for a comment.

A spokesperson for the local authority said Cork County Council was made aware of an incident by Inland Fisheries Ireland and the matter is currently being investigated, but there was no response from Irish Water before going to press.

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