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I am aware that several pollution incidents in the past year have resulted in significant fish kills. Fisheries Conservancy Board staff have investigated the incidents and estimated the numbers and types of fish killed. DCAL will work closely with the Environment Agency and angling clubs in order to provide advice and assistance about how to reinstate the affected waters.
Pollution incidents have a broader impact on fisheries. Pollution results in a loss of revenue from fishing and, sometimes, a reduction in the population of species that are already under threat. A pollution incident normally kills fish of varying ages. There is, therefore, a knock-on affect for at least three to four years before fish populations recover to sustainable levels.
I thank the Minister for his answer. Does he accept that there is a wider impact on recreational tourism and its associated business areas? Will the Minister instigate a review that will put a figure on the financial loss to the local economy, and ensure that that loss is taken into account in a system of fines that is based on the polluter pays principle?
The Member raises a valid and interesting point. I repeat what has been previously stated: the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure is responsible for restocking rivers. The polluter pays principle is an admirable one that most people believe in and advocate, but it is the responsibility of the Department of the Environment (DOE). In the first instance, my Department and the Environment Agency want to ensure that pollution of rivers is prevented — an issue that is primarily dealt with by the Department of the Environment.
However, there is close liaison between my Department and the DOE in order to ensure that pollution is prevented; that where pollution occurs, those responsible pay for their actions; and, importantly, as I have stated, that rivers are restocked. I subscribe to the principle of the polluter paying that is contained in the Member’s question.
In the wake of the Minister of the Environment’s decision to extend the slurry-spreading period until the end of the year, has the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure been advised by his officials, or received correspondence from the Environment Minister, about the possible pollution threat posed by that extension?
I have not received any communication from any individuals or groups — including the Minister of the Environment — about the potential pollution danger raised by the Member. I will draw his comments to the attention of my Department and the Department of the Environment.
However, if there were any serious potential for pollution, Departments would have been alerted and the Minister of the Environment would not have made that decision in the first instance.
The Member has drawn attention to what was a very serious incident. My officials are liaising with the Department of the Environment in order to establish the full extent of the fish kill and to prevent any repetition of such an event.
The situation is difficult and must be monitored closely. I intend to continue liaising with the Department of the Environment, concentrating on those two strategies: preventing a repeat incident and ensuring that the river is adequately restocked with fish.