'Mother Teresa of animals' and siblings save salmon in River Boyne

Kaitling, Genevieve and Cody Harding. Photo: Seamus Farrelly

By Louise Walsh

Kind-hearted youths have been spending their summer holidays saving salmon from dying in dangerously low-levels of warm water in the Boyne river caused by the heatwave.

The three youths from Slane, Co Meath have been spending hours each day at the river bank after noticing salmon struggling to get upriver to spawn.

Kaitling Phillips (20) and siblings Cody (13) and Genevieve (11) Harding began their crusade two weeks ago when they spotted two dead salmon in the oxygen-deprived waters.

"I love fishing usually but signs banning angling due to low water levels were erected in the hot weather so we all went swimming instead," said Kaitling

"I saw some salmon at the top of the water and swimming slowly near the weir, which is unusual because salmon are not so slow and aren't usually visual in the waters.

"I asked a neighbour who told me it was because of the lack of oxygen in the little water that was left in the river. He said he had netted a salmon earlier that week and let it go in deeper water, so we decided to do the same."

Kaitling said the salmon were trying to swim up the weir and upriver to spawn but the drought made it almost impossible to do so at the stretch of river in the historic village.

"We've been going down there every day for over two weeks. There have been a few salmon we have missed but we have managed to net four so far.

"The river at the sluice is near bone dry. We net the salmon, being careful not to touch them or agitate them and we jump into the weir, holding the net into higher and colder water before letting them go. "

She admitted that she couldn't net the salmon without the help of Cody and Genevieve.

Kaitling and Genevieve. Photo: Seamus Farrelly

"They're brilliant. It's very hard to see into the river when you're standing in it because of the glare, so they direct me to where the salmon is.

"The fishermen are all congratulating us, especially angler Paul Connor who taught me all there is to know about fishing," she said.

"We're chuffed each time we get a salmon up river. It's like winning a championship or something," she added.

Cody and Genevieve's mum Tracy said her kids were gone every morning for the day to save the salmon.

"Kaitling is the mother Teresa of animals anyway, " she laughed.

"The three Musketeers are gone from early morning. Even one evening, they were coming home and saw a salmon while looking over the bridge so they had to go back again."

"It's a great thing they're doing and everyone is very proud of them."

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