Investigations are continuing regarding the recent discharges of raw sewage and waste visible in Donegal Bay during Christmas.
The oyster industry in the bay has asked the EPA to expand its current investigation to include a profile and assessment of all the waste materials received at the Donegal Town Waste Water Treatment Plant in recent years.
The industry has noted a gradual decline in water quality in the bay which is impacting directly on the health of oyster stocks. This decline triggered a significant mortality event again last year which resulted in a loss of 700-800 tonnes of market size oysters from the 2019 harvest alone.
The importance of the oyster farming in Donegal Bay as the watchdog industry for our local community can not be overstated . There is the clear economic benefit to the locality with 30 full-time jobs alone.
But more importantly, oyster farming is fully protected by a variety of EU Directives which lay down strict water quality standards. This is powerful legislation and must be maintained at all times by the relevant authorities.
This level of EU protection guarantees pristine water quality in Donegal bay which in turn benefits all other users.
In this regard the Donegal Post has also learned that the oyster industry has legally requested Irish Water, Donegal County Council and Veoila Ltd to desist from accepting any waste material at the treatment plant that would in any way compromise these water quality parameters as outlined in the relevant Directives.
In addition, Donegal Bay is a fully designated Special Area of Conservation and Special Protection Area under the Natura 2000 Habitats Directive.
The oyster industry has also asked the Marine Institute to re-evaluate the general health of the native flora and fauna population within the estuary. Clean Atlantic seawater is paramount in maintaining the sensitive habitats which support the biodiversity of key species which the designations seek to protect.
Donegal Bay is also home to one of our most iconic species, the wild Atlantic salmon which has seen a marked decline in recent years and must be afforded all the protection possible. This welfare of this species is carefully managed by our Inland Fisheries and a pristine estuary is fundamental to their efforts also.
However for most of us Donegal Bay simply provides a beautiful natural amenity for our many recreational activities from boating, rowing, swimming, coastal walking and fishing.
The entrance to the bay is flanked by two world renowned blue flag beaches in Rossnowlagh and Murvagh . Donegal Bay is one of many jewels in Failte Ireland’s prestigious ‘Wild Atlantic Way’ brand which is an ongoing investment by the state in supporting all rural tourism initiatives.
It is hoped that current efforts by the local oyster industry quickly identify and rectify any problems which will help restore the pristine water quality standards in the bay on which so many of us ultimately depend.
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