Modiolus Restoration Plan
Horse mussel (Modiolus modiolus) reefs have been documented in Strangford Lough since the mid-nineteenth century and research conducted in the 1970s showed Modiolus reefs to be extensive. The full extent of these reefs was not mapped until the 1990s, by which time it was evident that the beds had already been significantly impacted by activities such as dredge/trawl fishing.
Following concerns raised by various Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and others, the Department of the Environment (DoE) commissioned Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) in 2003 to investigate both the current status of the reefs and identify probable causes of their demise [Strangford Lough Ecological Change Investigation (SLECI)]. An interim report in November 2003 identified trawling as the single most likely causative factor resulting in the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) introducing a total ban on all mobile fishing gear within Strangford Lough from December 2003. QUB reported their full findings in June 2004 painting a picture of widespread damage to the Modiolus biogenic reef feature. In 2008 the Modiolus Restoration Research Group was created within Queens University to provide technical and scientific support for the Modiolus Restoration Plan.
The Modiolus Restoration Plan was consequently developed to:
- protect the remaining Modiolus biogenic reefs (short term)
- assess whether conditions in Strangford Lough are currently suitable for restoration (short term)
- look for evidence of recovery of the reefs (medium term)
- restore the Strangford Lough Modiolus reefs to ‘Favourable Conservation Status’ (long term)
The Modiolus Restoration Group MRRG provides scientific support by: