Culture, Arts and Leisure Minister Carál Ní Chuilín has launched a new Lough Neagh Fisheries Protection Vessel, which she has named Cú Mhara.
The boat, which was built at a cost of £320,000 by Red Bay Boats in Cushendall, will play a pivotal role in the protection and conservation of fish stocks on the lough and its tributaries, which will help in ensuring the long term sustainability of the fishery for this and future generations.
Speaking at Ballyronan Marina, on the shores of Lough Neagh, the Minister said: “This is a great day for the area and its people and for the local fishing industry in particular. Lough Neagh is the largest single source eel fishery in Europe and it plays an invaluable role in the socio economic life of the local community, providing a livelihood for over 300 families living around the lough.
“Cú Mhara will greatly assist the work of my Fisheries staff as they perform the difficult but highly important role in the protection of fish stocks in the lough and its connecting waterways. The Lough Neagh fishery has played a crucial role in the life of the local community over many generations and I am determined that this will remain the case for generations to come.
“It is pleasing that this vessel was built locally in Cushendall and I commend Tom McLaughlin and his team at Red Bay Boats on their craftsmanship and overall levels of skill. It is a great investment in the local fishing industry and I have no doubt that it will be a key tool in our ongoing efforts to conserve fish stocks and in helping to sustain the local economy.”
Following the protection vessel the Minister held meetings with the Salmon and Inland Fisheries Forum (SIFF) and the Lough Neagh Fishermen’s Co-Operative Society Ltd (Co-op).
Speaking ahead of the meetings she said: “I am looking forward to meeting again with representatives of the fishing industry to hear first hand of the issues of most concern to them and to explore how I and my department can continue to work together to achieve the balance between exploitation and conservation to ensure long term sustainability. It is important that the department, local community, the commercial fishing sector and recreational anglers all work together to ensure greatest protection levels for the sector.”