Southern Star Saturday September 1, 2012
Save Bantry Bay committee to intensify protest against salmon farm expansion – by Brian Moore
The Save Bantry Bay committee (SBB) is calling on the people of the Beara Peninsula to unite and stop the proposed expansion of the Marine Harvest salmon farm at Shot Head in Bantry Bay.
Over 7,000 homes will be receiving leaflets, distributed by An Post, which details the fears and concerns the committee has with the development of a new salmon farm. ‘We need to make the people who live and work in Bantry Bay aware of what Marine Harvest plans to do and what effect this will have on the environment, both above and below the water in the bay,’ SBB secretary Alec O’Donovan told the Southern Star.
The SBB leaflet claims that the waste from the fish farm is equivalent to the sewage of a town ten times the size of Bantry.
The campaign also links the projected increase in nutrients in the water to algal blooms that have caused severe losses in the shellfish industry in recent years. ‘Bantry and Dunmanus, and other bays along the west coast are currently closed due to algal blooms and any increase in salmon farming in the bay will cause the number of local lobster and crab fishermen to decline,’ Mr. O’Donovan continued.
Marine Harvest Ireland already farms 14 salmon cages at Roancarrig. The cages, housing up to 40,000 salmon each, are overseen by 40 employees. These comprise office workers in Castletownbere and operatives who work in the bay maintaining the cages and harvesting the salmon. Marine Harvest plans to invest €3.5 million in the project, which includes the creation of six full-time jobs during the farm set up. When the farm is fully operational, it will provide a total of two full-time jobs.
The company has applied to Fisheries Minister Simon Coveney and the Department of the Marine for a licence to add a further 14 cages at Shot Head. The new site will cover almost 43 hectares of seabed and 1.5 hectares of the water surface area. This new development will enable Marine Harvest to move fish from one site to another, allowing a ‘fallow’ period in one location while the other continues to produce fish.
Local fisherman and chairman of the SBB committee Kieran McCarthy is concerned for his own future fishing in Bantry Bay. ‘My family has fished around Shot Head, the location of the proposed new farm, for three generations. This new salmon farm threatens local fishermen’s livelihoods through the loss of trawling grounds to a non-Irish corporation. We are not against salmon farming but we feel that the way forward is to develop contained fish farms on land where all outputs can be controlled and disposed of in a method that is environmentally sound. We are urging residents to lobby their TDs, Senators, and Minister Coveney, to read more, to talk to others, and to get involved. The future of Bantry Bay is at stake,’ Mr. McCarthy concluded.
Responding to the SBB leaflet and the claims that salmon farming is damaging Bantry Bay, a spokesperson for Marine Harvest issued the following statement. ‘There has been salmon farming in Bantry Bay for almost 40 years. It has operated without incident and today it is an integrated part of the local Beara peninsula community. Our proposed new salmon farm site is designed to complement our existing Bantry Bay facilities allowing improved rotation of fish stocks and thus improving the overall operating conditions. Salmon are extremely sensitive to pollution and only prosper in clean and well-oxygenated waters. It is therefore in our interests to ensure that the water quality in Bantry Bay remains pristine.
‘Constant water monitoring will be a priority for us to ensure that our organic salmon stocks flourish. While our application is currently being processed it is worth noting that, if licensed, the site will operate as a fully organic unit using low stocking density, organic salmon smolt and organic feed. We are grateful for the support we have received from locals and businesses and we hope that he established opposition groupings can work with us to improve an already established marine industry for the benefit of the community.’
Southern Star Saturday September 1, 2012