IFI appeals to farmers to protect watercourses

IFI staff carried out almost 2,000 inspections in 2022.

Inland Fisheries Ireland has appealed to farmers to protect watercourses during the silage season.

In 2022, IFI staff carried out almost 2,000 inspections in agricultural settings, and say that livestock manure and other organic fertilisers, silage effluent, and soiled water are highly damaging substances. On entering a watercourse, the runoff can kill fish and severely affect their habitats.

Commenting on the new appeal, Barry Fox, head of Operations at Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI), said: “We continue to secure successful convictions for agricultural pollution of waters, and breaches of legislation. We encourage farmers to work with IFI, and other statutory agencies, to prevent water pollution incidents from occurring."

As a result Mr Fox and the IFI are asking farmers to take "all possible precautionary measures" over the current silage season to stop any harmful run-off flowing into rivers, lakes, streams or the sea, over the summer months.

“Agricultural pollutants can cause an increase in excessive nutrients which drastically reduce oxygen content in the water and create fish kills. When rivers are at a low level in summertime, even a small leak can cause huge damage. Maintenance of silage pits and slurry storage facilities is essential to ensure that accidents don’t happen.”

IFI is advising farmers to follow its six-point SILAGE plan for optimum silage and slurry spreading etiquette to reduce the risk of polluting rivers and lakes:

S. Spread slurry during dry weather only, and never when a period of heavy rain is forecast.

I. Investigate if silage pits are properly sealed to prevent the entry of water, and/or if there is leakage from underneath the slabs.

L. Lead slurry away from a watercourse when working the land. Be aware of the slope of the field, and respect the buffer zones near a river, lake, stream or shoreline.

A. Avoid cleaning slurry tankers/spreading equipment close to a stream, river or lake.

G. Generate good yard cleaning hygiene - to curb effluent and soiled washings from inadvertently flowing to a watercourse

E. Engage with the statutory requirements by ensuring that adequate storage capacity for slurry, soiled water, and silage effluent, meet the regulations.

Farmers are also being asked to contact their local IFI offices before carrying out works at or near any watercourses.

IFI, the state agency responsible for the protection and conservation of freshwater fish and habitats, reminds farmers and members of the public they can report instances of pollution, fish kills or illegal fishing nationwide by calling its confidential 24/7 number, 0818 34 74 24.