My Department has an annual programme to maintain and improve infrastructure at angling waters, including the provision of disabled angling stands and improved pathways. Some of these waters are located in the lower Bann catchment, such as those at Movanagher, Portna and the Ballymoney river etc. Plans to improve the access road and fishing stands at Movanagher canal are being considered. The Department continued to stock game in public angling estate (PAE) waters throughout the COVID pandemic, as well as carrying out maintenance and improvement works at over 90 PAE waters. My officials also work closely with The Honourable The Irish Society, Waterways Ireland and many angling clubs on the lower Bann tributary rivers to improve angling and fisheries habitats in the area.
Finally, my Department’s management of salmon stocks and its conservation measures helped to stabilise, and possibly start the recovery of, the numbers of Atlantic salmon returning to the Neagh Bann catchment to spawn. That should help to attract recreational salmon anglers to the lower Bann and increase their number.
I thank the Minister for his answer. Looking to the future, when our tourist trade resumes, does the Minister agree that angling, either river or sea angling, will play an important role in the future of the tourism economy in my constituency of East Londonderry and other constituencies? The Minister has probably answered this already, but will he ensure that every action will be taken to minimise the pollution incident that happened overnight in the Aughlish river in County Tyrone?
The Member is absolutely right: the value of the tourism sector and of angling in that sector is phenomenal. We need to look after it and ensure that those incidents do not take place. Sadly, they do, but we need to do everything in our power to stop them and ensure that individuals recognise their responsibilities in ensuring that they do not happen.