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Lough Neagh

Specialist Consultants in the Aquatic Environment


A challenging, dynamic environment

Rare and protected pollan population study.

Understanding the environmental impact of industry on this important aquatic environment.

Demonstrating ability to work safely and effectively in an environment supporting recreational & commercial industries.



Lough Neagh supports several recreational and commercial industries, including sand extraction and a variety of fisheries. Commercial sand extraction had been in operation on the site since the 1930’s and it was deemed important for this industry to gain a better understanding of it’s environmental impact.

Our involvement:

THA Aquatic were commissioned to compile baseline characterisation and fisheries studies that would inform the submission of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).
Gap analysis, undertaken as part of the baseline, revealed there was little information regarding the ecology and life history of the protected whitefish species, pollan Coregonus Autumnalis.


Endemic to Ireland and with distribution limited to just 5 loughs (Lough Neagh being one), it was essential to design a robust survey that could successfully target this comparatively rare and unknown species.
Our comprehensive survey programme aimed at assessing abundance and distribution.
A novel multi-method approach targeted all year classes of pollan throughout the water column, utilising both static & mobile sampling techniques deployed both within and around the sand extraction area.

Lough Neagh Survey Vessel

Alongside consultation with the local commercial fishing industry to gain an appreciation of their intimate knowledge of the lough and pollan population, THA Aquatic chartered a commercial skipper to enable traditional draft netting activity.


Whilst overall pollan abundance was found to be low, with little evidence of recruitment, our study revealed that the species are ubiquitous throughout the lough’s surface waters.
The scope of the project did not allow THA Aquatic to determine the exact cause of low 2016 recruitment levels, however it was considered likely to result from the combined effects of several ecological pressures, including:

  • Eutrophication
  • Introduction of non-native invasive species
  • Climate change

Results of the pollan study were combined with detailed literature review to produce baseline characterisation. This was successfully used to inform the EIA where the perceived effects from commercial sand extraction were mitigated.
The EIA was accepted and commercial sand extraction continues to operate on Lough Neagh.

If you want to find out more about our aquatic services, please get in touch now