Western Lakes Plan

Long Term Management Plan for the Great Western Lakes.

Public Consultation
Tuesday, 09/08/2022 - 11:00am

This public consultation opens on Tuesday, 09/08/2022 at 11:00am and closes on Tuesday, 20/09/2022 at 6:00pm

Loughs Corrib, Mask, Carra, Conn, Cullin, Arrow and Sheelin are some of the best wild brown trout fisheries in Europe and are collectively known as the Great Western Lakes. Inland Fisheries Ireland wishes to develop a long term management plan for these lakes to address many of the factors currently impacting on the ecological wellbeing of native fish stocks in their catchments. You can scroll down to find a helpful list of FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions).

Feedback from the Public Consultation on the Draft Plan for the Great Western Lakes. 



IFI undertook a public consultation from Tuesday 9th August 2022 to Tuesday 20th September 2022.  A series of open evenings were held at 6 locations in Sligo, Mayo, Galway and Cavan to allow stakeholders meet local staff to find out more about the plan.  An online webinar was also hosted by senior management in IFI to allow any stakeholders to put questions or queries to help inform them to make a submission. 

Details of submissions 

227 submissions were received, most using the online form on IFIs website. 


Key points raised in the submissions 

Common across all themes 
  • Broad welcome for the plan 

  • Increased resources (enforcement (environmental and regulations, monitoring) including staffing required 

  • Education and Awareness (schools, catch & release, habitats, third level) 

  • Increased penalties for legislative breaches - including fish movement 

  • Interagency approach 


  • Legislative changes to byelaws 806  and 809 

  • Bag and Size limits and methods for trout (including ferrox, gillaroo and sonaghan) and char 

  • Rapid response for new fish introductions 

  • Angling seasons - align nationally or change locally including spawning  schemes 

  • Brown trout as qualifying interest in SAC's 

  • Roach and bream as native species 

  • Pike is an important apex predator 


Stakeholder engagement 
  • Regular stakeholder consultation  

  • Advocate a single agency with responsibility for GWL's 

  • Propose an overview of the various bodies involved in the management of the GWL's  

  • Angling clubs should be represented in decision making 

  • Consider preference to the demands of salmonid anglers unfair with possible loss of tourist angling by not promoting alternative angling 

  • Propose a broad policy group reporting to the Minister to tackle the bag limit issue 

  • Address catchment management including farming representative organisations 

  • Suggestion that the RBMP's have failed in their objectives 

  • Voluntary assistance provided to IFI e.g., species removal, citizen science, water sampling, tree planting, habitat development, boat movements 


Fisheries Management and Climate Change 
  • Managing the GWL as salmonid fisheries 

  • Development works required to counter act climate change 

  • Re-establish insect life on affected lakes 

  • Advocates more decision making at local rather than national level 

  • Suggests the creation of a farming grant scheme to reward a proactive farming system that enhances water quality and habitats and Compensation to be given to farmers to set aside lands 

  • Introduce max outboard engine sizes, jet skis 

  • Hatcheries - new proposals and propagation of salmon and trout 

  • Carry out fish salvage operations 

  • Fishing should be suspended during periods of high temperatures and low water levels 

  • Climate changes impact on wild fisheries not properly investigated 

  • Proposal for introduction of a permit system 


Water quality 
  • IFI need greater input into planning applications which could impact fisheries 

  • Advocates the need to examine the effect of tyres/rubber degrading in water and its knock on effects 

  • Advocates that no fertilizer or slurry should be spread at wrong time of year or within 1km of water source.  using satellite imagery to monitor.  Advocates increase buffer zones using native woodlands 

  • Advocates the use of centralised digestors in each county to collect slurry to generate electricity through anaerobic digestors 

  • Weed harvesting for rivers and lakes to be used as landfill material  

  • Concern regarding the effectiveness of the Nitrates Regulations 

  • Scoring System should be put in place for all lakes, rivers and other water bodies 

  • No abstraction without licence 

  • Concern regarding the use of pesticide, algaecide, herbicide and insecticide 

  • Sewage treatment and septic tanks, leaching from biocycles, dumps adding to water quality issue 


Invasive species 
  • Improved legislation/awareness for invasive species (Introductions, controls, biosecurity, penalties) 

  • Proposed EU wide study on Zebra mussels 

  • Plan of action needed for invasives 

  • Supports more regular control programmes on invasive weeds including lagrosiphon 

  • Control mink 


Stock Management 
  • No evidence and questions science to support stock management 

  • Against gill netting 

  • Supports wild stocks as opposed to stocking 

  • Supports a stock management programme that would include all fish, birds, animals that are a threat to salmonids 

  • Licencing of a commercial coarse fishery 


Habitat Management 
  • No drainage of wetlands to counteract nutrients and improve water quality 

  • Concern regarding barriers to fish migration. eg. Ardnacrusha 

  • Plans should be presented on IFI website, request for scoring of streams and reviewed 

  • Implement Habitats directive 

  • L Corrib to have no wind farms to protect spawning streams and for aesthetic reasons 

  • Spawning streams not to be used for hydro electric 


  • Studies on decline of insect life required 

  • IFI relying on pike data from the 1950's 

  • Supports regular fish stock surveys of all fish species 

  • Suggests that the evidence from recent publications by IFI haven't been considered 

  • Research around micro-plastics required 

  • Further research required on pike-trout interactions and on the effectiveness of gill netting programmes 

  • Trout counters required on Carra and Mask tributaries 

  • Further evaluation of pike ecology and impacts in large lakes 

  • Caution in relation to sampling methodology for competition caught fish 

  • Investigations around habitat destruction by bream 

  • Reduction in quality of salmonids 


  • No Appropriate Assessment was carried out. Not compatible with Habitats directive 

  • Fisheries Act to be updated 

  • Need for all stakeholders to work together to create tourism in the West of Ireland 

  • Ensure gill nets are properly marked 

  • Give control of fisheries to angling clubs 

  • Adress issues arising from Aquaculture and its impact on Salmon and Sea Trout 

  • Plan must be SMART with specific goals reviewed at agreed stages of plan 

  • The plan needs formalising on a statutory basis 


How we propose to incorporate feedback and views 

A panel of IFI staff have worked through all of the submissions and a revised plan will be published in due course. This is also impacted by the environmental assessments.  Further stakeholder consultations will take place relating to these assessments. 


DRÉACHT Mhórlochanna an larthair.pdf
(1.78 MB)
DRAFT Great Western Lakes Management Plan
(1.75 MB)

All submissions received

WLMP Submissions Part 1

Published on 18 May 2023
  • Public consultations

WLMP Submissions Part 2

Published on 18 May 2023
  • Public consultations

WLMP Submissions Part 3

Published on 18 May 2023
  • Public consultations

Recent Presentation

If you didn’t get a chance to visit one of our open evenings or attend our online webinar, you can see Declan Cooke of Inland Fisheries Ireland explaining the draft plan in this video:

Strategic Environmental Assessment

Inland Fisheries Ireland will carry out a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) of the Plan for the Long Term Management of the Great Western Lakes. The proposed scope and level of detail of the information to be included in the in this assessment is included in the SEA Scoping Report. If you have any submissions or observations on the proposed scope please send these to WLMP SEA Consultation, Inland Fisheries Ireland, 3044 Lake Drive, Citywest Business Campus, Dublin D24 CK66 on or before the 20th of September 2022. 

WLMP SEA Scoping Report
(3.3 MB)

Appropriate Assessment

Inland Fisheries Ireland have prepared a Screening for Appropriate Assessment of the Long Term Management Plan for the Great Wester Lakes. For more information on Appropriate Assessment please see the Frequently Asked Questions below.  

Screening for Appropriate Assessment Great Western Lakes Management Plan.pdf
(2.48 MB)

Next Steps: 

The feedback from the Public Consultation on the Draft Plan has been considered and the revised plan will be subject to further Environmental Assessment in Q1 of 2023. The output of these assessments will be the Strategic Environmental Assessment Environmental Report and the Natura Impact Statement. Stakeholders will be consulted on these assessments and the revised plan in Q1/Q2 of 2023.

Western Lakes Plan Frequently Asked Questions

This Plan aims to address some of the many factors that impact on the ecological wellbeing and the status of native fish stocks in the catchments of the Great Western Lakes.

Inland Fisheries Ireland wish to engage with all stakeholders in the development of this plan to ensure that they all get to have their say in the process.

The lakes covered in this plan are Loughs Corrib, Mask, Carra, Conn, Cullin, Arrow and Sheelin.

The lakes are located in Counties Galway, Mayo, Sligo, Roscommon, Cavan, Meath and Westmeath.

Lough Sheelin was included in the original designation of a number of Irish lakes currently being managed for wild brown trout. As it is still being actively managed along with the other six western lakes, it was decided to include it in this plan.

This is a longstanding policy since the 1950s that has sought to optimise the trout population for angling as these lakes are the single biggest wild trout lakes remaining in Europe, where trout are fast-growing and self-sustaining.

Various bodies are responsible for various aspects of lakes. For example; Inland Fisheries Ireland is responsible for protecting, conserving and managing our inland fisheries resource while local authorities are responsible for water quality.

Strategic Environmental Assessment or SEA is a process for the formal, systematic evaluation of the likely significant environmental effects of implementing a plan or programme, before a decision is made to adopt the plan or programme.

Appropriate Assessment (AA) is an assessment of the potential adverse effects of a plan or project (in combination with other plans or projects) on Special Protection Areas (SPAs), and Special Areas of Conservation (SACs). SACs and SPAs are also known as Natura 2000 sites or, European sites

A Screening for Appropriate Assessment is the first stage of Appropriate Assessment . It is a review of a plan or project to see if it has the potential, either on its own or in-combination with ofher plans or projects, to have a significant effect on the European sites.

A Natura Impact Statement examines whether the plan or project, either alone, or in combination with other plans and projects, in the view of best scientific knowledge and in view of the sites’ conservation objectives, will adversely affect the integrity of the European sites.

For further information on Appropriate Assessment please see the National Parks and Wildlife Service Guidance on the Appropriate Assessment of Plans and Projects in Ireland via this link;  https://www.npws.ie/sites/default/files/publications/pdf/NPWS_2009_AA_Guidance.pdf

Yes. A Screening for Appropriate Assessment has been caried out on the Draft Plan. The likely effects that the actions contained in the Draft Plan could have on European Sites are uncertain or unknown. For this reason, and in keeping with the precautionary principle, an NIS is required for the Plan.

When the public consultation on the Draft Plan is completed, the feedback provided by stakeholders will be considered and the Plan will be revised to take account of the feedback if appropriate. An NIS will then be prepared on the revised plan.

Inland Fisheries Ireland will use the NIS as the basis for consultations with stakeholders.  When the NIS is prepared there will be a period of public consultation on the NIS of the Plan. At the same time there will be public consultation on the revised plan itself and the Environmental Report prepared as part of the Strategic Environmental Assessment process.

Following consultation with the stakeholders, Inland Fisheries Ireland will prepare an Appropriate Assessment Conclusion statement which identifies potential adverse impacts of the plan on the Natura 2000 Sites and explains how those effects will be avoided though mitigation. When this Conclusion Statement is published the Appropriate Assessment process is concluded.

Alien Invasive species (AIS) are defined as novel plants, animals or even microorganisms which have been introduced accidentally or intentionally outside of their natural geographical range, causing significant damage to ecosystems, economies, and native species.

Ireland has a limited diversity of native fish species. Pike, roach, perch and other species have been introduced into these lakes over time.

Inland Fisheries Ireland does not have a mink management plan in place. If, through the public consultation process, mink is identified as having a negative impact on the numbers of salmonids, this could be investigated and management measures can be discussed with stakeholders with a view to addressing the issue.

There are many reasons for the declines noted in salmonids throughout their natural range over the last 3 decades. These largely relate to direct impacts or impacts on their habitats from the following sources, drainage, habitat loss, pollution, invasive species, over-exploitation and predation. Even climate change is now thought to be impacting on salmonid stocks with the severity of these predicted to increase over the coming decades. This plan describes the various sources of impact on salmonids and aims to introduce measures which may help with these.

The introduction of bag limits and size brackets for ferox trout could be considered, in consultation with stakeholders, if this is found to be an effective measure in the conservation of this species.

More investigations, surveys and modelling are required to identify the appropriate management strategies.

Feedback on the Great Western Lakes Management Plan was facilitated by an online form. Submissions could also be made by email and post.

The deadline for submissions (20 September 2022) has now passed and no further submissions will be accepted.

Important notice: The names of respondents and their submissions will be published on our website at the end of the consultation process, where appropriate (i.e at the time the document arising from the consultation is published). All personal data is collected, processed and held by Inland Fisheries Ireland in accordance with WLMP Privacy Notice.

During the current public consultation period, six open evenings will take place across the region where members of the public can drop in and meet an Inland Fisheries Ireland representative, discuss the draft plan, seek clarification or ask questions.

No tickets or registration is required and all open evenings are operating on a ‘drop-in’ basis from 4pm to 8pm.


Wednesday, 24/8/22

McDermott's Bar & Restaurant, Bellanagarrigeeny, Castlebaldwin, Co Sligo F52 FN24

Thursday, 25/8/22

Great National Hotel, Rathnaconeen, Ballina, Co Mayo F26 X5P3

Tuesday, 06/09/22

Monsignor Horan Memorial Centre, Partry Commuity Centre, Co Mayo F12 KF86

Wednesday, 07/09/22

Anglers Rest Hotel, Headford, Co Galway H91 PN77

Thursday, 08/09/22

Courthouse, Oughterard, Co Galway H91 CC96

Tuesday, 13/09/22

Crover House Hotel, Mount Nugent, Co Cavan A82 P2D9

If you wish to give feedback, please do so before 1700hrs on the 20th of September 2022 through Great Western Lakes Questionnaire. Feedback received after the deadline has lapsed will not be considered.

When dealing with bream or any other invasive, IFI will examine impacts and evidence before management interventions are made. IFI will also explore all possible options to avoid killing these fish. To this end, we will endeavour to find appropriate waters to stock bream where this does not lead to adverse ecological consequences. 

Many of the tributary rivers in the L. Sheelin catchment have excellent brown trout spawning and nursery habitat. Significant resources have also been allocated to these streams to restore this habitat, having been previously damaged by drainage activity. The presence of other fish species has never been a deterrent to the development and designation of the great western lakes.  Lough Sheelin has been managed as a trout fishery since the 1950’s and it is IFI’s intention to continue to conserve and protect it as such.  

The risk to both sympatric species and ferox trout by angling is discussed in section 3 and there is a proposal to review current bag limits on all of the great western lakes. This issue has also arisen during the public consultation process associated with the draft plan. There appears to be general agreement amongst IFI and angling stake-holders that bag limits may be managed to reduce this risk. IFI’s Corporate Plan 2021-2025 identifies the need for evidence-based management decisions. IFI is committed to this approach. 

Any changes requiring a bye-law will be the subject of public consultation. The draft plan is clearly advocating conservation and protection of salmonid stocks and their habitat.  

Right now timelines and deliverables are at a strategic level however once the plan is finalised and resource requirements identified, IFI will ensure that each section will have the required metrics and indicators in terms of financial, staffing and environmental. The key risks and dependencies will be outlined. The plan is subject to rigorous environmental assessment.  

IFI has noted the absence of Hydro-schemes in the plan and will insert a section to deal with same. New legislation regarding water abstraction to be introduced in 2023 will also inform regarding this important issue.  

IFI recognises that the Great Western Lakes are a shared resource. Jet Ski’s however are a matter for the local authorities.  

One tench was recorded in the Lough Corrib survey in 2011 (Upper Lough). Five tench were recorded in the 2021 survey (Lower Lough).The latter were caught in the large mesh nets         which weren’t used in earlier surveys.  

Reports are available on www.wfdfish.ie

Although non-native, they are considered benign as populations are relatively small and not considered to have a significant impact on native species or ecosystems.  

Yes, please see information on our website here 

Please see section 7.1 of the draft Plan which refers to Invasive Species. As with any new introduction, early identification is crucial ‘ and wherever feasible, these will be removed and/or managed to minimise their impact on native species. The avoidance of further AIS introductions and the prevention of spreading existing ones will be a priority for IFI’ in all systems.  

Are Bye-laws 806 and 809 going to be removed? If they are removed what does IFI expect the outcome to be? Does IFI believe that managing the lakes for trout by the removal of pike is effective? What peer reviewed scientific evidence does IFI have in relation to the origin of pike?  

IFI does not introduce or remove bye-laws, that is a matter for the Minister. It is recommended in the plan that ‘ the protection conferred upon them under bye-law 806 (Conservation of and Prohibition on Sale of Coarse Fish, Bye-Law 806 2006) is removed in these catchments as an additional measure to help somewhat reduce numbers if the evidence base indicates that this will be beneficial to wild brown trout’ and   ‘ Consideration may also be given to a review of the current Conservation of Pike Bye-law No. 809, 2006 which confers special legal protection on pike with regard to their exploitation by angling. This may be inappropriate on lakes which are being managed specifically for salmonids or where pike have been recently introduced.’ 

 Research on pike is available on our website herehere, here and  here.