Southern Star, Saturday February 18th, 2012, by Brian Moore:
“IT was standing room only at the Caha Community Hall in Adrigole last Saturday night as the local community turned out in force to voice their concerns at the proposed new 300-acre salmon farm in Bantry Bay.
Marine Harvest Ireland plan to invest €3.5 million in the project, which will see a new organic salmon farm sited at Shot Head. The plan includes the creation of six full-time jobs during the farm set-up. When the farm is fully operational, it will provide two jobs.
Speaking at the meeting, one local fisherman is not convinced that the addition of six jobs falling to just two upon completion is worth the environmental damage that he claims this salmon farm will cause: ‘There are up to 20 people fishing this area right now: all making a living, all contributing to the local economy. This farm will cover such a big area that we will struggle to survive.
‘You can’t fish around these cages; you will lose gear and the farm will, I believe, have a devastating effect on the local shellfish stocks. My family have fished for prawns, shrimps, lobster and crab for generations; I want to be able to carry on this tradition but there will be no future for fishing in this area if this salmon farm goes ahead,’ Kieran O’Shea from Adrigole said.
While many local fishermen are very concerned at the location of the salmon farm, other members of the community are worried about the impact this project will have on the well-established marine tourism sector in the area. Caroline Lewis from Friends of the Irish Environment said: ‘I am delighted to see so many people here tonight. We need to highlight the impact this development will have on, not only Bantry Bay, but also the people who live, work and holiday in the area. We need to know whether a new salmon farm in Bantry Bay would or would not contaminate existing fish and mussels in the bay, thus potentially jeopardising the livelihoods of local fishermen.
‘Will this farm deplete existing fish stocks, especially of wild Atlantic salmon, which would have a negative impact on angling tourism? Or, will it endanger the existing seal population in Coolieragh, Adrigole and Glengarriff, which would also affect the ferry operators to Garinish Island?’
Number of jobs
‘As we have already heard, there are major concerns that the project will reduce the number of jobs available to local residents by a greater number than the number of jobs being created,’ continued Ms Lewis. ‘There are also fears that it will pollute the bay’s water and make it unsuitable for fishing, swimming, sailing, kayaking and diving by members of the local communities and tourists alike.
‘This would negatively impact tourism to the Beara and Sheep’s Head peninsulas and affect all who provide accommodation and other tourist services. The people in Bantry Bay need more information.’
Many of those gathered at Caha Community Hall on Saturday night were very surprised and disappointed that, although invited, no local public representatives – TDs or councillors – attended the meeting.
‘We need more information and we need representatives from Marine Harvest to communicate with the local community. The application for the salmon farm licence should be suspended until a socio-economic impact review is completed.
‘This area needs jobs, but not at the expense of the jobs that are already in place and we must meet with Marine Harvest and put our fears and concerns to them,’ Caroline Lewis concluded.
In a statement from Marine Harvest, technical manager Catherine McManus said: ‘Marine Harvest Ireland operates a comprehensive Environmental Management System. Within this system, we examine and measure all of our impacts on the environment from energy usage, visual impact and use of natural resources to waste management.
Salmon are extremely sensitive to pollution and only grow if the waters in which they live are clean and well-oxygenated. Consequently, the monitoring of both fish and environment represents a very important aspect of our operations. This also means that the salmon farmer has the greatest interest and concern for the environment in which they exist.
‘We, as farmers, must satisfy the salmon’s requirements, yet do so sensitively in respect of other interests and the general public’s concerns. Over the last 40 years, salmon farming has become a successfully-integrated part of the local community in the region and has happily coexisted with tourism interests.
‘Marine Harvest has the highest regard for this local environment and community and is committed to delivering this development in line with best environmental practice. Marine Harvest is happy to invite small groups and individuals to come in and meet with us to discuss the project at any time, if they have any concerns or queries.’