Northern Ireland is world renowned for the variety and quality of its locally grown and produced foods, from its superlative seafood to its extraordinary beef. However, it has been the region’s freshwater fish that has yet again brought a first to the table; with Lough Neagh Pollan scooping the first Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) for Northern Ireland. In 2011, Lough Neagh Eel became the first Northern Irish product to be recognised for its quality and authenticity through the European Union’s Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) Scheme.
Pat Close, Chairman of the Lough Neagh Fishermen’s Co-operative Society (LNFCS), the company which holds the fishing rights to Lough Neagh and who are responsible for registering both Lough Neagh Eel and Lough Neagh Pollan with the EU schemes said;
“The PDO accreditation is just reward for the fishermen of Lough Neagh who work diligently using sustainable, traditional fishing methods to maintain a viable future for the species and the industry. Pollan are the only European vertebrate found uniquely in Ireland, with Lough Neagh the only lake currently capable of sustaining a viable commercial stock of pollan. This accolade celebrates the authenticity and heritage of fishing for pollan on Lough Neagh as well as the unique characteristics of the species. We would like to thank both AFBI & DAERA for their help and assistance in this great achievement”
Dr Derek Evans Project Leader within Freshwater Fisheries section of Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI), said;
“The listing of Lough Neagh Pollan as a unique food item, from one single source is wholly befitting for this very distinctive fish species.
Lough Neagh Pollan (a member of the Salmon family) are one of only a handful of fish species native to Ireland that have remained with us following the extinction impacts of Ice Ages. In science terms we call them a glacial relict, left over from the Saalian Ice Age (200’000 years ago), having lost their previous migratory behaviour as a consequence of sea temperature and salinity rises. Instead, the Pollan became restricted to the temperate freshwaters of Lough Neagh, leaving behind its closest relatives like the Arctic Omul and other members of the Cisco whitefish family to the cold waters of the Arctic.
Following the great success of the Lough Neagh Eel PGI listing in 2011, it made perfect sense to use the suite of biological expertise that exists within our Fisheries and Aquatic Ecosystems Branch (FAEB) to support the LNFCS’ PDO application for Lough Neagh Pollan. Key to this has been the range of projects hosted by FAEB which have studied the ecology and biology of the Pollan over many years. Combined with our state of the art DNA analysis which indicates that Pollan colonised Lough Neagh after the Saalian ice age, whilst the other Irish populations became resident during the Devensian ice age (~ 40 000 years ago), made for a very robust application and defence of the unique value that L. Neagh Pollan holds.
Essentially, if you are eating a commercially sourced pollan product, it can only have come from Lough Neagh, it doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world. It is findings and projects like this that make it cool to be a fish nerd!”
Michele Shirlow, CEO of Food NI, the promotional voice for Northern Ireland’s Food & Drink said;
“The award of Product of Designated Origin for Lough Neagh Pollan is another significant milestone in Northern Ireland’s taste journey. EU recognition of Lough Neagh Pollan, the first fin fish in UK & Ireland to receive the accolade of PDO, signifies how LNFCS have been leading the way within our region. It also is an acknowledgement of this unique species, it sets the region apart as one with a great food heritage and tradition, which benefits our food and drink reputation and food tourism.”