Limerick councillor wants River Shannon restored as salmon spawning ground

Green Party councillor Séan Hartigan at the Plassey Bank on the River Shannon.

LIMERICK Green Party councillor Seán Hartigan wants to see the River Shannon restored to its former glory as a spawning and nursing ground for wild salmon.

The City East representative pointed out that Ireland’s largest river was once “the best salmon river in Europe, maybe in the world”, and he now wants to see the ESB step up to the mark to play their part in reviving it.

According to Cllr Hartigan, consultants have pointed out that the flow of the Shannon needs to be increased at certain points to draw the fish back to their former breeding grounds.

“Not alone was there thousands and thousands of fish coming up the river but there was huge fish – fish of 50 pounds weight – and of course after Ardnacrusha, which was a massive scheme in the start of the 1920s, fish were blocked from coming up the river,” he told the Limerick Post on a visit to Plassey Bank.

“Because of the increased flow coming from Parteen Weir, the fish are drawn up towards it.

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“The fish actually went up that way and died until they put a fish path there, which was maybe as good as they could do at the time, but it wasn’t highly successful.

“The numbers of fish in the river here have dropped dramatically over the years to a point where there’s now only four per cent of the number you would need to maintain the natural amount of fish in the river,” he explains.

The Green Party man believes something dramatic needs to be done to restore the numbers of fish in the River Shannon.

A study by the Shannon Fisheries Partnership confirmed that what is needed is improved paths at Parteen Weir.

“There’s already a ladder fish pass there but it needs to be better and also we need to change the flow rates in the river. For almost 11 months of the year, we only have 10 cubic metres coming down the river.

“Where it is coming down the tailrace from the canal, where it was diverted, we could have 400 or even 500 cubic metres.

“What consultants have said is, you need to increase the flow from 10 to 17 cubic metres, so it can never go below 17 cubic metres. Also you need, where there’s fish coming up the river, to increase the flow to 45 cubic metres to draw them up this way.”

Cllr Hartigan is of the opinion that this is something that can all be done very quickly by the ESB.

“It is something that I’m fighting with the ESB over, so it can be done overnight. The problem is loss of revenue to the ESB, which would be €650,000 per annum. But on the scale of what they make, it isn’t a massive amount,” he concludes.

In response, the ESB pointed out that Ardnacrusha is a landmark in Ireland’s economic and social development and, almost 100 years later, continues to contribute zero carbon electricity into the energy system, supporting the country’s necessary transition to a Net Zero Carbon energy system.

The State-owned electricity company told the Limerick Post that it is working closely with all stakeholders on the Lower Shannon Fish Passage Improvement group.

“A roadmap for improving fish passage was presented in May 2021 and is being further developed at present. Amongst the measures in this roadmap are potential changes in water releases at Parteen Weir, improved fish pass facilities, barriers and diversions which, in an integrated solution, are intended to improve upstream and downstream migration of multiple fish species.

“The consultants recommend that all the measures are progressed into detailed design with appropriate feasibility assessments, trials and monitoring. ESB is actively engaged with the Department in this process and fully supportive of delivering a comprehensive solution.”