The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s allocation of €185,000 for a project around Lough Sheelin under the Farm and Community Biodiversity Initiative has been welcomed by Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI).

The state agency applied for funding to enhance biodiversity on seven rivers in the Lough Sheelin catchment area in Cavan and Meath, which was granted earlier this month following a successful open call application.

Lauding the allocation, IFI said that, working in partnership with farmers and landowners along the rivers, it will begin works later this year “that will help protect riverbanks from erosion by livestock, reduce water pollution and enhance biodiversity by pruning vegetation and trees in selected areas to allow more natural light to enter the river channel”.

Suzanne Campion, head of business development with Inland Fisheries Ireland, explained the premise of the scheme, stating:

“When cattle enter a river to drink, they can damage the banks of the river, causing materials, such as sediment to enter the river.

“This can reduce the overall water quality in the river which will negatively impact the fish and their habitats.

“Thanks to funding from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, we can provide alternative sources of drinking water for livestock through ‘cattle drinkers,’ and we can install fencing which is set-back from the river’s edge.

“This will mean that erosion and water quality issues in the Lough Sheelin Catchment area can be prevented and biodiversity can be enhanced,” Campion said.

Inland Fisheries Ireland is planning to install over 50 cattle drinkers and 5km of livestock fencing along the seven rivers at Finaway, Maghera, Drumone, Halfcarton, Pound, Mountnugent and Kildorrough.

The agency anticipates that these works will lead to the growth of vegetation on river banks, which would become a natural habitat for wildlife and could act as a buffer to prevent polluted water from the land entering the rivers.

In the longer term, Inland Fisheries Ireland plans to carry out significant river habitat enhancement works as part of a five-year development plan, working closely with the Lough Sheelin Trout Preservation Association (LSTPA).

The Farm and Community Biodiversity Initiative works will be completed within the next 12 months.

The ‘Riparian zone enhancement – Lough Sheelin Catchment project’ is an EIP (European Innovation Partnership) being administered by Inland Fisheries Ireland. The Project is funded by the EU Recovery Instrument Funding under the Rural Development Programme 2014-2022.