Plan for Sheelin biodiversity and ecosystem conservation

Lough Sheelin has been selected as one of seven lakes that will be the subject of a ‘medium to long-term’ management plan by the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications. The CEO of Inland Fisheries Ireland says the Department's plans for the seven lakes “should inspire a positive vision for the future”.

Lough Sheelin, which comes under the Limerick fishery district, will have mitigation measures for invasive species and habitat protections.

Inland Fisheries Ireland, the state agency with responsibility for the protection and conservation of freshwater fish and habitats, will now proceed with a proposal to develop a management plan for the seven lakes and submit timelines for the plan to the Department by the end of September.

The Chief Executive Officer of Inland Fisheries Ireland, Francis O’ Donnell, said the plan will focus on key areas such as biodiversity and whole ecosystem conservation.

Such conservation measures will be the basis for the protection and development of wild salmonid stocks such as wild brown trout: “From our research to date, it’s clear that the Western Lakes are under threat, and we must take action underpinned by best available scientific data to protect and conserve the unique status and importance of these salmonid waters in the long-term,” Mr O'Donnell said and pointed out that the proposed management plan should inspire a positive vision for the future of the Western Lakes and serve to protect them as they are topographically distinct waters.

The Projects Office and Research Division within Inland Fisheries Ireland is being tasked with the development of the management plan. It’s likely to include catchment-wide surveys to identify fish population dynamics, salmonid habitat deficits as well as water quality pressure points. Where feasible, habitat restoration and development projects will be carried out as well as vegetation management on land and water adjacent to the lakes.

The management of invasive species, such as various coarse fish and curly waterweed, will also be an important feature of the plan. An emphasis on stakeholder engagement between state bodies, public representatives, angling clubs, conservation groups and local communities is also expected to be a key component.

“These lakes are among some of the last remaining wild brown trout fisheries in Western Europe, so it’s critical that the plan is subject to rigorous environmental governance and that it takes ecological and socio-economic impacts into account,” Mr O’Donnell added, “Inland Fisheries Ireland is now looking forward to developing the detail of the plan and delivering the actions outlined, working in close partnership with the Department and all relevant state agencies and stakeholders.”

The seven lakes within the ‘Western Lakes’ grouping are: Lough Corrib (Galway fishery district), Lough Mask (Galway fishery district), Lough Carra (Galway fishery district), Lough Cullin (Mayo fishery district), Lough Conn (Mayo fishery district), Lough Sheelin (Limerick fishery district) and Lough Arrow (Sligo fishery district).

The request to develop a management plan follows detailed discussions with the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications and advice from Inland Fisheries Ireland.