Lough Sheelin.

Great Western Lakes public consultation gets under way in Westmeath

A public consultation on the long-term management of the Great Western Lakes began earlier this month.

Inland Fisheries Ireland is urging the Westmeath public, especially the angling community and anyone who uses the lakes or lives near them, to make a submission.

Inland Fisheries Ireland is the state agency responsible for the protection, conservation and management of the inland fisheries resource and it has developed a draft plan for the long-term management of seven lakes.

Covering Lough Sheelin (in Westmeath, Cavan and Meath), Lough Corrib and Lough Mask (in Galway and Mayo), Lough Carra, Lough Conn and Lough Cullin (in Mayo) and Lough Arrow (in Sligo and Roscommon) the draft plan aims to address some of the many factors that impact on the ecological well-being and status of native fish stocks.

The lakes have long been designated, as a matter of policy, to be managed primarily as wild brown trout waters.

Therefore, the proposed management programmes for these lakes, as set out in the draft plan, will protect, conserve and enhance the lakes’ natural attributes and native biodiversity.

In turn, this would optimise the lakes’ potential as sustainable wild brown trout fisheries and, in some cases, Atlantic salmon fisheries.

Other species such as eels, Arctic char and Ferox trout are also reflected in the draft plan.

Speaking at the start of the public consultation process, Francis O’Donnell, CEO of Inland Fisheries Ireland urged the public to participate by reading the draft plan and making a submission.

He said: “It’s clear to see that all seven lakes share a series of pressures which are impacting on their ecosystem stability and native fish stocks.

“These include declining water quality, fisheries habitat loss, invasive species and the detrimental effects of climate change.

“These issues will be tackled through the various measures proposed in this draft plan.

“That is why the public consultation process is such an incredibly important step, as it gives the Westmeath public the perfect opportunity to have their say.”

The draft plan is available from the Inland Fisheries Ireland website at www.fisheriesireland.ie/westernlakesplan or by visiting Inland Fisheries Ireland’s offices in Sheelin, Ballina, Galway or Limerick.

The deadline for making a submission is 5pm on Tuesday, September 20.

Those wishing to make a submission are being encouraged to use the online questionnaire which will guide them through the headings of the plan.

Unfortunately, any submissions received after the deadline has passed cannot be considered.

During the consultation period, an open evening will take place in Cavan where members of the public can drop in and meet an Inland Fisheries Ireland representative, discuss the draft plan, seek clarification or ask questions.

Those planning to attend an open evening are advised to familiarise themselves with the contents of the draft plan and the associated ‘frequently asked questions’ in advance.

The open evening is taking place at Crover House Hotel in Mountnugent on Tuesday September 13.

The open evening runs from 4pm to 8pm and no tickets or advance registration is required.

Other open evenings are taking place in Sligo, Mayo and Galway.

Mr O’Donnell added: “We are urging anyone in Westmeath with an interest in the Great Western Lakes, especially anglers, other users of the lakes or those that live nearby to have their say by making a written submission online before September 20.

“Only written submissions, submitted to the consultation via the form, email or to the consultation address will be considered.”