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Species Introduction
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There are at least 21 freshwater fish species found in the wild in County Clare. It is estimated in excess of 85 fish species use the Shannon Estuary at some stage of their life (either as a spawning, nursery or feeding ground or as a migration route from freshwater to sea).

Smelt Osmerus eperlanus
Smelt are one of the rarest fish in Ireland and Clare and are listed in the Irish Red Data Book as vulnerable. The few locations where Smelt is found in Ireland include the Shannon and Fergus estuaries. The Shannon estuary is thought to be the most important site for Smelt in Ireland. The numbers of Smelt throughout Ireland have declined due to pollution, as they require clean water. It is estimated that in excess of 10,000 adult spawning smelt were killed in a major fish kill in Limerick in 2001 and its effect on recruitment was noted in 2003.
Habitat: Clean rivers and estuaries.
What could or does threaten the population: Pressures include disturbance in the estuary (including dredging and dumping), agricultural runoff, industrial pollution and exploitation of spawning adults as fish bait. The Smelt are particularly vulnerable as they are short lived and mature early.

Atlantic Salmon
Atlantic salmon Salmo solar
Salmon can be found in the river Shannon, the river Fergus, their tributaries and West Clare rivers. Salmon have undergone a serious decline, particularly in east and south Clare due to habitat degradation, hydroelectric impoundment, water pollution and over fishing. However in unspoilt areas in the west of the county, good populations of Salmon still exist. Salmon numbers have declined throughout Europe due to pollution.
Habitat: Clean rivers and the sea.
What could or does threaten the population:
Overfishing and pollution from ineffective septic tanks, agricultural runoff, forestry and industrial sources. Damage to habitats (by drainage, land improvement, overgrazing, abstraction of peat, planting and harvesting coniferous forestry) can lead to a loss of spawning gravel beds, nursery areas and altered hydrology in rivers. There are potential threats from introduced fish such as Roach and Dace. Climate change and changes in the marine environment also pose a threat.

Eels Anguilla anguilla
Eels are common in Clare, but they are considered threatened internationally. They are found in nearly every lake and river with access to the sea throughout the county. The largest Eel fishery in the Republic of Ireland is based on Lough Derg . Eels breed in the Sargasso Sea which is in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, then their larvae drift across the Atlantic to the coasts of Europe. Young eels swim into rivers in early summer and make their way to ponds and lakes. They only spawn at the end of their lives which, is usually between 6 and 15 years, though they can live as long as 50 years. At maturity, in autumn, they swim downstream, make their way back across the ocean to the Sargasso Sea, where they mate, lay a million eggs or more - and die.
Habitat: Rivers, ponds, lakes and the sea.
What could or does threaten the population: Overfishing, also it is thought that possibly global warming is effecting the breeding.

Lump Sucker
Lump sucker Cyclopterus lumpus
The Lump sucker is an odd looking sea fish and comes in a range of colours. Like the clown fish in the film “FINDING NEMO” the males tend to their eggs. They can be found in the Shannon Estuary in Clare. As the estuary is a transition zone between the freshwater of the River Shannon and the salt water of the Atlantic Ocean, representatives of freshwater, truly estuarine and marine fish species occur along different stretches here.
Habitat: Off shore in waters 50m to 300m deep, but migrates to shallow waters to spawn. At this time they can be found between the tide mark.
What could or does threaten the population: Habitat changes in the estuary associated with development, such as dredging, dumping, pollution, shipping and fossil fuel power stations during spawning migration.

Other important species in Clare include Brook, Sea and River Lamprey, Sea trout and the Slob trout which is almost unique to Clare. The Arctic char, which used to occur in five lakes in Clare, is now believed to be extinct. Brown trout have suffered a decline in some of Clare's most important trout lakes such as Inchiquin and Lickeen.

Arctic Char now believed to be extinct in Clare
Animal species which are now extinct in Clare include Brown bears, gigantic elephant-like Mammoths, Wolfs, Spotted hyena, Great spotted woodpecker, Quail and the Golden eagle (reintroduced recently in Donegal). Plants which became extinct in Clare recently include Arctic sandwort, Cornflower and Corn cockle. Some species which have not been seen for some years and may be extinct include the plant Gromwell, the Narrow-leaved helleborine orchid and a bird, the Nightjar. Species are not just becoming extinct in faraway continents, it is happening right here in Clare too.

Arctic Char Fish