Lough Neagh

Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:15 pm on 4th May 2021.

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Photo of Dolores Kelly Dolores Kelly Social Democratic and Labour Party 3:15 pm, 4th May 2021

T4. Mrs D Kelly asked the Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs to outline his Department’s obligations to and vision for Lough Neagh, given that he will be well aware of its increased usage during lockdown and its potential for staycation-type holidays. (AQT 1264/17-22)

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

Lough Neagh is a huge asset and, I believe, an underutilised one. I have said that from my early days of visiting Lough Neagh at Antrim or Oxford Island. I would love to see Lough Neagh more utilised. It is the largest body of fresh water in the United Kingdom.

We have tremendous opportunities from the agri-environment side to reduce pollution in Lough Neagh. It has faced problems with eutrophication in previous years, and that starving of oxygen in the water undermines what we are capable of doing on the Lough Neagh waterways. It is important that we do everything that we can to ensure that Lough Neagh has clean waterways and that the land around it is low in phosphates in particular.

There is much that we can do through my green growth strategy to ensure that we have a better management system for slurry so that a lot less slurry is spread in generations to come. That is my big aim. I want us to move to the anaerobic digestion of slurry materials and separation and then pelletise the phosphates as opposed to land-spreading it. We do our lidar assessments, and we do our checks of nutrients in the soil and ensure that what is applied is applied appropriately. That would be of great assistance to Lough Neagh.

Photo of Dolores Kelly Dolores Kelly Social Democratic and Labour Party

I welcome the Minister's outline. Last week, Minister, you made an announcement about grants for Lough Neagh fishermen: will you confirm that the applications should come from licensed eel and scaled-fish fishermen?

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

Yes. The applications are out there. The fishermen who fish in Lough Neagh are entitled to do so on the basis of the licence.