The future of Lanesboro’s fishing industry could be dealt a potentially crushing blow if latest tests show traces of invasive clams in Lough Ree.
Those were the sobering words from Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) chief executive Dr Ciaran Byrne this week following their discovery along the region’s so-called ‘hotwater’ stretch last Thursday.
Dr Byrne confirmed samples had been taken from the bed of Lough Ree in the days since by specialist teams to determine whether the invasive species had spread.
“There are two scenarios that we are looking at,” said Dr Byrne, after IFI chiefs implemented a fishing ban along the popular fishing route to prevent its accidental spread.
“The first is that there is a small enough infestation which we can respond to by basically digging it out. That would be what we would call a controlled scenario.
“The second is more serious and potentially could have a devastating impact on fishing.”
Like the Zebra Mussel (Dreissena polymorpha), Asian clam has the ability to become highly invasive in a short period of time and at high densities it can alter the food web and compete with native mussel species.
The one positive Dr Byrne said, was the fact a trout survey taken in April uncovered no evidence of Asian clams being present.
“In that sense, I suppose you could say we are ahead of the curve. The thing about clams is while they aren’t going to kill any children or eat your dog, when you get this kind of density of species they can almost grow over everything and change the whole ecology of a lake,” he said.
Repesentatives from the ESB as well as a number of other interest groups held talks on Monday in an attempt to verify the extent of the problem.
Apart from its harmful ecological side effects, the reproductive nature of the Asian clams can impact on the day to day operations of power stations.
Pipes can become jammed, leading to bio-fueling issues.
Local Cllr Gerald Farrell said the importance in keeping the clam infestation confined to the ‘hotwater’ stretch of the Shannon could not be underestimated.
“It would be hugely detrimental to Lough Ree if it spread.
“I think it’s something like €70m that tourism is worth to Ireland.
“A sizeable chunk of that would be taken out straight away if it has spread.
“I just hope it hasn’t because it could take years for fish stocks to be rebuilt,” he warned.