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Aquaculture in Lough Swilly

| Background to the issue | Arguments for development | Arguments against development |

Background to the issue

Lough Swilly is a flooded river valley stretching 40 kilometres into County Donegal from the Atlantic Ocean. To its east is the Inishowen Peninsula and to the west lies the Fanad Peninsula. The Lough reaches 15 and 50 metres deep and is accessible by boats at all stages of the tide as far upstream as Letterkenny. The biggest tidal range is 3.7 metres but can be as little as 1.4 metres. The shoreline of the lough is attractive with a range of scenic landscapes including spectacular cliffs and sandy beaches. The surrounding area too is picturesque with mountains and lakes, peat bogs, saltmarsh and woodland.

Lough Swilly hosts a wide variety of wildlife including rare bird species. In summer the Arctic Tern is a visitor and, in winter, the Great Northern Diver can be found. Both Common and Grey Seals can be found in the Lough.

The Lough has been protected by the Irish State and by International bodies in a number of ways. It is named in the European Habitats and Birds Directive. It also qualifies under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance. Furthermore, it is designated a Natural Heritage Area under the Republic of Ireland’s Wildlife Acts, 1976 and 2000.

The aquaculture industry involves the farming of aquatic plants and animals. These are deliberately ‘planted’, grown in controlled conditions and then harvested, just as in conventional agriculture. In Ireland aquaculture is based in rural areas and is a comparatively young industry. In Lough Swilly it began only in the 1980s, but has grown steadily since then.

There are a number of species farmed in the Lough: