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Fishermen Updated on Strangford Lough Protection

NORTHERN IRELAND, UK - Minister Michelle ONeill has met Strangford pot fishermen to discuss future fishery management in the Lough.

Minister ONeill told fishermen that officials from DARD and DoE have had recent informal meetings with senior officials from DG Environment to discuss proposals for a revised management regime for Strangford Lough which allow pot fishing to continue in the Lough but meet obligations under the Habitats Directive.

Minister ONeill discussed alternatives with fishermen such as a fishing permit scheme inside Strangford, and working together on the construction of reefs. She said Department officials and the Commission have agreed a series of actions considered necessary by the Commission to properly address their concerns and to maximise the potential restoration of Modiolus reefs in the Lough. Inevitably these will lead to change for commercial and leisure users of the Lough.

Minister ONeill said: This is a serious matter which my Department shares with the Department of the Environment. I have today met fishermen to discuss some of the implications, explained that it is necessary to make additional closures, and asked that they work together with Seafish and my officials to draw up a proposal for alternative employment which meets our conservation objectives and Commission expectations. I welcome the constructive approach from the fishermen today (30 April). We are going to work together to bring forward a further restoration plan and I hope they will be involved in much of the work. Moving forward we will also engage with the Ulster Wildlife Trust to include their objectives.

Minister Attwood said: It is regrettable that actions we need to take now may impact those who use the Lough for their livelihood. However, we need to act decisively. This is necessary, not only to answer the threat of European infringement proceedings but to address fully and help restore the Loughs damaged ecosystems. This is the approach I have wanted to see. This appears now more possible.

Lucy Towers

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