First study of rare Killarney charr aims to protect species


The Killarney charr is to be studied scientifically for the first time. It is a small, salmon-like fish with a blunt nose, and it is a separate strain to other Irish charr.

The research is part of a nationwide effort by the Irish Char Conservation Group which aims to protect the threatened species.

Up to 40 per cent of charr populations in Ireland are extinct and in the last hundred years have disappeared from at least seven lakes including Loughs Conn and Corrib. At least five other populations have come under threat, or have become extinct, in the past 20 years.

Anglers have reported few catches of charr on one of the three Killarney lakes, Lough Leane, which has been polluted in recent years.

It is not over-fishing which has threatened these strange lilac blue fish whose male bellies turn to red-orange in the spawning season.

Remnants of the Ice Age, charr only live in pristine clear waters. Afforestation, septic tanks and farming has put an end to them except in the highest, most pure mountain lakes.

Irish charr are not well understood, which is the reason for the present study, according to Mr Myles Kelly of the Central Fisheries Board and a founder member of the conservation group with Dr Fran Igoe of the University of Limerick.

The group set up two years ago to highlight the plight and lack of biological knowledge of these rare and ancient fish. "Because they are not an angling species there has not been the same urgency. But they are such an important species," Mr Kelly said. If nothing else, charr are a barometer of pollution, he said.

The South Western Regional Fisheries Board is to give the go-ahead for the study "under the strictest conditions", so other species are not harmed. Gill nets will be set to trap the charr over a few hours in the upper and middle lakes of Killarney.

One of the aims of Char Conservation Group is to change the international spelling of charr to the Irish spelling with one "r".

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