Monster 'fish' in Killarney lake think scientists

 

Scientists trying to find out more about the rare Arctic char in the lakes of Killarney have hooked a "monster". A hydro-acoustic study of Muckross Lake, one of the deepest lakes in Ireland, has thrown up a baffling image of a deep lurking "thing" the size of a small house in the south-eastern part of the lake.

It is the first time the lake - which is known also as the Middle Lake - has been properly surveyed, and the study is being carried out by the Irish Char Conservation Group (ICCG) with international scientists. Instead of the normal small signals indicating individual fish, monitoring personnel got something much larger in around 10 metres of water, last April.

They have been unable to identify the image. It was not due to a computer or logging error, as the sonar equipment was functioning normally, said Mr Andrew Long, fisheries consultant with River Monitoring Technology.

Only when they began analysing the data recently, did the truly mysterious nature of the "thing" become apparent.

Christened "Muckie" by the study group, parallels are already being drawn with the Scottish Lough Ness Monster.

Lough Ness and Muckross Lake have much in common. They are large and deep with similar fish species, including Arctic char. Muckross Lake is up to 70 metres deep - this makes it, along with its sister lake, Lough Leane, the deepest lake in Ireland, said Dr Fran Igoe, scientific adviser to the ICCG.

"What we do know is that the fish fauna in Muckross is very ancient indeed. We have confirmed the presence of a good population of Arctic char, and the lake is known to hold ferox trout, ordinary trout and Atlantic salmon, as well as lamprey species of eel, all of which attest to the ancient origins of the this lake," he said.

The latest discovery was "very exciting" and served as a reminder of the hidden mysteries still lurking in Muckross and other ancient ice-age lakes in Co Kerry.

Scottish fisheries expert and monster hunter Mr Ron Greer, who has written extensively on the giant Scottish ferox trout, is to lead a study of the lake in September. His experience with Lough Ness should prove invaluable, Dr Igoe said.

There was a serious side to the surveys by the ICCG, Dr Igoe remarked. Many of the lakes had not been surveyed before, yet Ireland was losing genetically unique populations of species, without fully understanding what was happening.

The curious find has been welcomed by Mr Paddy O'Sullivan, regional manager with Dúchas.

Whatever it turns out to be, it would be afforded full protection, as the lake in the heart of the Killarney national park was part of a Special Area of Conservation, he said.