Peninsula bids to halt fish farms’ expansion

Up to 7,000 homes in the Beara Peninsula have been targeted by a voluntary group campaigning to prevent the expansion of Marine Harvest’s fish farms in Bantry Bay.

In leaflets distributed by An Post, a Save Bantry Bay action committee has highlighted the problems of pollution in the bay through the poor circulation of water.

The group has claimed the projected waste from the fish farm would be equal to sewage from a town 10 times the size of Bantry.

Local resident Breda is quoted on the leaflet as saying it is “unbelievable that you can have what is essentially a floating battery farm and the Government will allow the waste to be dumped straight into the water. A farmer would never be allowed to do this on land.”

The campaign also links the increased nutrients to algae blooms that have caused serious problems in the local shellfish industry in recent years.

Local fisherman Kieran is also quoted as pointing out that his family fished around Shot Head, the proposed location for the new farm, for three generations and that the project threatens local fishermen’s viability through the loss of trawling grounds to a non-Irish corporation.

The group says research shows that wild salmon populations typically plummet to half their previous levels when salmon farms operate nearby.

The leaflet also quotes Chloe, who regularly visits Adrigole, as saying that if “fish farming goes on like this, an alternative holiday spot will be more attractive”.

There has been sharp opposition in Bantry to plans to develop a 12-14 cage 3.5m organic salmon fish farm at waters near Traflask in Adrigole.

Save Bantry Bay has urged Marine Harvest and the Department of Agriculture to consider moving the operation into a closed container system such as that planned by Niri AS for Bantry.

Marine Harvest wants to develop the 100-acre fish farm at Shot Head, and has lodged an application for a foreshore and aquaculture licence with the Department of the Marine, where it is currently being examined.

A public consultation process was held in advance of the licence application. It is not known when the final decision will be reached.

David Millard, Bord Iascaigh Mhara regional development officer in West Cork, has steadfastly argued that Marine Harvest, which operates a fish farm in Beara, has “a good environmental and safety record” in West Cork.

“I understand why people might be worried but the application for aquaculture and foreshore licences are a strictly controlled process and Marine Harvest are following it to the letter of the law,” said Mr Millard.

“The project will be regulated and monitored by the Marine Institute.”

The Irish Examiner, Monday, September 03, 2012 – By Claire O’Sullivan

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