Page last updated at 11:10 GMT, Thursday, 25 October 2012 12:10 UK

Environment Committee

A plan to restore horse mussels which provide a critical habitat for dozens of other species in Strangford Lough will not be a quick fix solution, a representative from the Ulster Wildlife Trust said, on 25 October 2012.

Jennifer Fulton, along with a number of other colleagues, appeared before Stormont's Environment Committee.

Horse mussels, otherwise known as Modiolus modiolus, have formed large reefs in the lough.

They are one of the key reasons why the lough is designated as a special area of conservation.

When it was discovered in the late 1990s that many of the mussels were actually dead, the EU warned that if the remainder were not immediately protected and their restoration assured, infraction proceedings would follow with the potential for massive fines to be imposed.

Victoria Magreehan, also from the trust, said the structures had developed over thousands of years and they had been deteriorating over the past number of decades.

Joe Furphy said he was concerned that fishermen on the lough were suffering more than anyone else and they were not responsible for the damage to the modiolus.

"The modiolus situation was caused by people, coming in from outside in the 1980s and later, who actually did all the damage," he said.

Sinn Fein's Francie Molloy asked about the representatives about the possibility of using artificial reefs.

Dr Jade Berman said it had been proven that artificial reefs did not work as live modiolus was needed in order for others to settle.

Committee members also received a briefing from Department of Environment officials on traveller accommodation.

Environment committee membership


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