Zebra mussel presence leads to 44k fish cull

Stripy mussel shell
Zebra mussels are an invasive species [Getty Images]

More than 44,000 fish have had to be culled at a Departmental fish farm in County Antrim.

Due to the presence of zebra mussels, an invasive species, fish bred at Movanagher, near Kilrea, cannot currently be used to stock other waters.

The suspension was put in place in June 2023 after the mussel was found in the fishery to prevent its spread.

In a statement, the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs said stocks at Movanagher had reached “a critical point” and the cull had been conducted for health and welfare reasons.

The number of fish removed was the minimum required to provide space for the remaining fish on the farm.

The cull was carried out over the last week under the supervision of a vet.

Under the Wildlife Order 1985, it is an offence to release invasive species into the wild.

Zebra mussels were first detected in Northern Ireland in the Erne system during the 1990s.

They emerged in Lough Neagh in 2003.

The prolific mollusc filters water, making it clearer.

That can allow other species to grow and disrupt local ecosystems.

The zebra mussel is believed to have contributed to the conditions that allowed potentially toxic blue-green algae to bloom in Lough Neagh last year.