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Fish Legal wins £27,000 in compensation for Iveagh Anglers in Northern Ireland

07.03.11

River Lagan During Pollution Incident

After 5 years of battling with the NIEA and Central Chemicals, Fish Legal has won over £27,000 in damages for the Iveagh Anglers for the pollution of the River Lagan in Northern Ireland.

Fish Legal was forced to issue proceedings at court against Central Chemical Supplies Ltd – a Craigavon-based manufacturer and distributor of chemical products describing itself as “Ireland’s Premier independent Chemical Trader” – following the devastating pollution of the River Lagan in July 2006.

The company – whose premises sit on the bank of a tributary of the Lagan at Donacloney – released a lethal mix of chemicals directly into the river from an overflow pipe killing thousands of wild brown trout and other species including stoneloach, gudgeon and eels.

After receiving reports of vast plumes of chemical foam and dead and dying fish, the Environment and Heritage Service (EHS) and the Fisheries Conservancy Board (FCB) tracked the pollution to the Central Chemicals factory. It was found that a toxic chemical storage tank had discharged via an overflow pipe into the river, and that the company had ignored previous warnings in 2005 to prevent such a disaster.

The company was eventually fined just £7,500 with costs at Craigavon courthouse in 2009 for the pollution. But the EHS (now the Northern Ireland Environment Agency) refused to pass on details of the case to Fish Legal, which lead to a complaint to the Information Commissioner for Northern Ireland.

Central Chemical’s representatives refused to settle the case and so Fish Legal – an environmental organisation which represents anglers – was forced to serve a writ on behalf of the Iveagh Angling Club through its solicitors in Northern Ireland, claiming compensation for a restocking programme to restore the fishery to its pre-pollution state.

Justin Neal, Head Solicitor at Fish Legal, said:

“This was a terrible pollution which resulted in a huge fish-kill and really hit the river and the Iveagh Anglers hard. The prosecution came far too late and the fine was derisory. In the time that it took for the NI government agencies to prosecute the company and provide us with the case file, the NIEA changed its name and the FCB merged with another agency. Meanwhile, the effects of the toxic spill continued and the anglers – and the environment – were left without a remedy. We attempted to negotiate with the defendant’s representatives so that funds could be put towards restoring this precious river, but our approaches were rejected. We therefore had no choice but to issue court proceedings through our solicitors in Northern Ireland and the case was finally settled.”

Gary Houston, Secretary of the Iveagh Angling Club represented by Fish Legal, said:

“I’ve been a member of this club for over 30 years and we have gradually improved the spawning habitat for the trout and salmon in the upper reaches of the Lagan seeing exceptional returns in terms of an increase in their numbers before the chemical spill in 2006. Sadly these efforts are being undermined by one chemical company.”

He continued: “Our fishery is renowned for its wild brown trout which draw in anglers from all over the UK and benefit the local community by bringing tourists to the area. Word spreads quickly in fishing circles and the reputation of the club’s waters as one of the best places in Northern Ireland to fish has been tarnished.”

“We hope the money will go some way to reinstate the native trout population of the River Lagan and reinstate the fishery to a pre pollution status. It shows the high value of our wild salmonid fisheries and the high cost of a native restocking programme. This will hopefully make polluters think twice in the future. Again words cannot express our thanks and admiration for the team at Fish Legal and The Angling Trust.”

NOTES TO EDITORS

1. The Iveagh Angling Club was formed in 1944 and controls the fishing between Spencers bridge Moira and Thorneyford bridge Dromore on the River Lagan. The club aims to promote the ‘art of fly fishing’ and has worked tirelessly to conserve and improve the trout numbers in the river system.

2. In a report commissioned by the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, the Loughs Agency of the Foyle, Carlingford and Irish Lights Commission and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board in 2007 Price Waterhouse Coopers estimated that gross expenditure contribution of NI resident anglers was £39.3 million in 2005, with a further £3.5 million being added to the economy by visitor/tourist anglers.

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