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Frequently Asked Questions

Corporate FAQ’s

What are the Agency`s normal opening hours?
Foyle:  Our head office (including our Riverwatch Visitor Centre) at Prehen is open to the public from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday,

Carlingford: The regional office at Carlingford is open to the public from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.


Does the Agency have offices in other locations?
Yes, we have an office in Omagh. However, it is only an operational base.


Is the head office and visitor centre wheelchair accessible?
Yes


How is the organisation structured?
Sharon McMahon is Loughs Agency’s Designated Officer. The Agency is divided into four directorates, each managed by a Director:

  • Conservation and Protection is headed by John McCartney
  • Development is run by Kevin Wilson
  • Corporate Services is the responsibility of JP O’Doherty
  • Aquaculture is headed by Barry Fox.

Together these five staff make up the Senior Management Team. They report to our Board twice a month. Check out the ‘Meet the Team’ section of our website for further details about staff.


Who should I contact if I need more information?
You can contact the office on +44 (0) 2871 342100 or email general@loughs-agency.org.


Riverwatch Aquarium and Visitor Centre

How can I make a group booking?
Simply call Riverwatch on 0044 (0) 2871 342100 or e-mail riverwatch@loughs-agency.org


Is there a guide to take me around the visitor centre?
The centre is self-guided and there are lots of interpretative panels to help visitors. If, however, you require further assistance or have a group booking, a guide can be arranged for no extra charge, but must be booked in advance.  


Is there activity packs available for the kids?
Yes, free activity packs are available at reception.


Is there an admission charge?
No, admission to Riverwatch is FREE!


Is there schools programmes?
Yes, Riverwatch runs a range of educational programmes from Key Stage 1 upwards. Go to the Riverwatch section of our website for more information.


What time are the fish fed in Riverwatch?
The fish are normally fed before the Aquarium opens to the public. However, if this is something you really want to see, we can sometimes change the feeding time. Contact us in advance of your visit to make arrangements.


When is the Riverwatch Aquarium and Visitor Centre opening?
The centre is open from 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday.


Shellfisheries and Aquaculture

Can shellfish be collected by the public and are they safe to eat?
Anyone who wants to collect shellfish for personal consumption should be aware of the health risks involved. They should also be aware of the European Food Hygiene Regulations (EC Regulation 853/2004). Anyone who wishes to gather shellfish by hand for commercial reasons should contact the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in Ireland, the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in Northern Ireland or the Loughs Agency for advice.


Do Lough Foyle oysters have a disease? Is it harmful to humans?
A tiny percentage of native oysters in Lough Foyle have tested positive for a microscopic parasite called Bonamia ostreae. This parasite can cause mortality in native oysters, especially during spawning seasons and when the water temperature is high.  However, this parasite is not harmful to humans.


What are red tides/harmful algal blooms?
Shellfish are filter feeders. They eat by siphoning water through their gills and collecting any suspended food particles in the seawater. Their diet contains plant and animal material in the form of plankton which can be toxic to humans if eaten. For this reason, it is important to monitor levels of harmful plankton.

This toxic plankton is known as red tides or harmful algal blooms. Government scientists carry out weekly monitoring to determine whether toxic species are present in the water. If harmful plankton is found, shellfish are not harvested or sold for human consumption.

Such incidents are not uncommon elsewhere in Ireland and the UK but they’re very rare in Lough Foyle and Carlingford Lough. Nevertheless, to be on the safe side, it’s best to check with the monitoring body before eating shellfish from Lough Foyle or Carlingford Lough.


What shellfish are there in Lough Foyle and Carlingford Lough?
Lough Foyle is home to many species of wild shellfish. Blue mussels and native oysters are the most abundant types. Brown crabs, velvet crabs, spider crabs, green crabs, lobsters, prawns, winkles, clams and whelks can also be found there. There is a traditional fishery for native oysters in Lough Foyle that has been fished by local people for centuries.

Lough Foyle also supports a thriving shellfish aquaculture industry, which produces about half of Ireland’s total annual production of blue mussels. Pacific oysters are also farmed in Lough Foyle and sold in restaurants throughout Europe.

Carlingford Lough is also home to large populations of blue mussels. These are found in wild mussel beds and are farmed in aquaculture sites within the Lough. Green crabs, brown crabs, lobsters, clams, prawns, winkles and native oysters are also present in the Lough. Pacific oysters, Manila clams, native oysters and mussels are all farmed in Carlingford Lough – both on the seashore and on the seabed.


Conservation & Protection

What area does the Loughs Agency cover?
We cover all the rivers and streams that drain into Lough Foyle and Carlingford Lough as well as a section of the marine environment outside of Lough Foyle.


What number should I ring if I see pollution in the river?
You can call the Agency during office hours on 0044 (0) 2871 342100. After 5pm, and at weekends, you will be given advice on who to contact in the event of an emergency.


What number should I ring if I want to report illegal fishing?
As with pollution incidents, you can contact us during office hours on 0044 (0) 2871 342100. After 5pm and at weekends, you’ll be advised who to contact in an emergency.


Where can I buy salmon?
It is illegal to buy or sell rod-caught salmon. Registered dealers may sell commercially-caught wild salmon during the season.

COVID-19 UPDATE

Following the Government’s advice in relation to COVID-19, Loughs Agency has put in place a number of measures to maximise our capacity to continue to deliver our services as best we can.