IFM Lamprey Conference

IFM Lamprey Conference : Four Irish speakers but no protection for lampreys at home

The programme for the Institute of Fisheries Management’s conference on the biology, conservation and management of lampreys is now out and can be accessed at the link below:-

According to the IFM here will be speakers in attendance from 15 different countries and key note addresses will come from Dr. Pedro Almeida, University of Evora, Portugal and Prof. Margaret Docker, University of Manitoba, Canada.

Plate 8 Adult River Lamprey  Lampetra fluviatilis

Adult River Lamprey Lampetra fluviatilis from the River Fergus Co Clare. This individual was rescued by us (along with nearly 100 others) from behind sheet piles installed during the lamprey spawning season within an SAC.

Despite the recession, four representatives from Inland Fisheries Ireland are attending the conference and giving presentations. It’s a pity that there is not the same enthusiasm for actually protecting lampreys in Ireland as there obviously is for going to conferences about them.

We would like to put it on record that the destructive and counter-productive process of dredging rivers should never be referred to as “cleaning“, especially by an ecologist

One of the four talks from Irish representatives is entitled “Channel cleaning and juvenile lamprey: impacts, recovery opportunity?“. We would like to put it on record that the destructive and counter-productive process of dredging rivers should never be referred to as “cleaning“, especially by an ecologist. We are very disappointed that this term, an archaic euphemism of 1950’s era river engineering attitudes, is being used by someone with responsibility for protecting lampreys in Ireland. Unless of course the talk will be about the EPA’s efforts to clean rivers of pollutants in advance of the 2015 Water Framework Directive deadline – in which case the use of this word would be appropriate and we would of course apologise.

Dredging and drainage maintenance in Ireland has significant negative impacts within SACs; and even more severe impacts on undesignated channels. Flood schemes in Ireland have caused integrity level damage to SACs designated for lampreys. Recovery opportunities are not good enough, we need real protection for lampreys and their habitats in Ireland and limit / avoid the damage in the first place. This is not being done in Ireland, where the primary aim of the state agency responsible for lampreys in Ireland is the development of angling and tourism. There are no fisheries for lampreys in Ireland, and never will be. Responsibility for protecting lampreys in Ireland needs to be returned to the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

It’s a pity that there is not the same enthusiasm for actually protecting lampreys in Ireland as there obviously is for going to conferences about them

Dredging and channelisation of rivers is in many cases the cause of, and not the solution to, much of the recent flooding affecting the UK and Ireland. It is an ecologically destructive and counter-productive practice and is not something that has to accepted. Even engineers are now starting to understand that dredging can make river banks more prone to erosion, and hence stimulate a further build-up of silt, exacerbating rather than improving problems with water conveyance capacity (see ‘Floods and dredging – a reality check‘ by the Chartered Institute of Water and Environmental Management, for example).

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Regarding the talk presumably on Mulkear LIFE’s lamprey pass; You will know our opinion about this here. Inland Fisheries Ireland are not helping lampreys over barriers, they are putting barriers into rivers to count salmon to set quotas for killing Annex II listed fish. These concrete weirs with associated salmon counters are barriers to lamprey (and eel) migrations in Ireland and give nothing to conservation. No counts from these facilities are ever published. No proper and convincing scientific evidence that the Mulkear LIFE ‘lamprey pass’ provides any significant benefits to lampreys has ever been produced.

Indeed we think that River lampreys are the most vulnerable of the three lamprey species in Ireland and they should not have been assessed as being at ‘Favourable’ status

Another speaker from IFI has a presentation entitled ‘Lamprey status assessment for Article 17 Habitats Directive in the Republic of Ireland: 2013 reporting outcomes and future directions‘. We disagree with IFI’s assessment that the River lamprey Lampetra fluviatilis is at ‘Favourable’ conservation status in Ireland. River lampreys are poorer swimmers than sea lampreys and are confined to below barriers in the lower reaches of rivers where they occur. They were rated as ‘Favourable’ because of the inability to tell Brook lamprey L. planeri and L. fluvialitis  ammocoetes apart so they were grouped together. It is clear that Brook lampreys are at ‘Favourable’ status in Ireland, but there is a good chance that River lampreys are not; indeed we think that River lampreys are the most vulnerable of the three lamprey species in Ireland and they should not have been assessed as being at ‘Favourable’ status. Recent research has shown that there are significant genetic differences between Lampetra fluvialitis and Lampetra planeri. They are separate species, with different requirements, and they needs to be managed as such. The sea trout is the same species as the brown trout but is managed differently. There are calls for separate management for varieties of the brown trout (i.e.  Gillaroo, Ferox, Croneen, Dollaghan – all the same species), so why are we grouping two different lamprey species together?

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For more on our opinions on the impact of dredging rivers on lampreys, and general protection of lampreys in Ireland please see the following posts.

At least one of Ireland’s flood schemes has had integrity level impacts on an SAC designated for lampreys, and this needs to be raised with the European Commission. Read more at the link below:-

Also see this post we did recently, which also has a number of relevant comments regarding dredging rivers:-

For more on our opinion of Mulkear LIFE’s lamprey pass, please see the following:-

For any further information please do not hesitate to contact us.

Unfortunately at present, we are not able to attend this conference due to the financial realities of working in the private sector. However, we will continue to highlight the failures of IFI (and other organisations such as the OPW) to protect lamprey species in Ireland on this and other blogs/websites we run.

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