Over the past 30 years, sites chosen have proven to be ill-judged in terms of their close proximity to river mouths. The untold damage from sea lice infestation to wild salmon and sea trout smolts on their outward journey to oceanic feeding grounds is nothing short of catastrophic.
A new report in the highly regarded Proceedings of the Royal Society of Biological Sciences reveals that on average 39 per cent of wild salmon mortalities are attributable to sea lice.
In the past, salmon farms were considered large when they were licensed to harvest 2,000 tonnes, the current proposal is for a farm harvesting 15,000 tonnes.
While this latest proposal is a step in the right direction in terms of its “off-shore” location, nevertheless, it will bring a plethora of problems, beginning with the size of its annual output and the “baggage” that entails if and when it moves into unchartered waters.
Sound advice as to the way forward on this issue can be found in the Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) submission on the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) by way of correspondence to BIM.
In addition to a comprehensive analysis on the EIS content, IFI has included an additional checklist for consideration including the location and dimension of this proposed farm; site characteristics; production process; potential impacts; monitoring; and organic farming.
As an addendum, IFI believes it would be appropriate for an assessment of all wild salmonid fisheries in the affected zone, a full monitoring system put in place and a baseline study undertaken in advance of any farm being established.
Salmon Watch Ireland (SWI) also welcomes the Royal Society (RS) report, citing “a causative link between decreased wild salmon abundance and aquaculture-generated sea lice infestation of wild stocks”.
According to SWI, Ireland is obligated under the Habitats Directive to protect wild Atlantic salmon and all current and future salmonid aquaculture farms must be required to move to land-based facilities.
In its submission to Government regarding the proposed Galway Bay salmon farm, SWI will demand that the RS report forms the basis of future management of aquaculture facilities.
The report is definitive and wide ranging. It asserts that state agencies cannot be allowed to dictate policy in the field of aquaculture which are spatially too narrow, even though their own findings demonstrate that sea lice have a statistically negative effect on wild salmon abundance, according to the SWI.
Atlantic salmon survival has diminished alarmingly over the past decades and any man-made negative impact must be tackled effectively.
In welcoming the RS report, the Minister of State for Natural Resources, Fergus O’Dowd, said: “it is crucial that sea lice levels are maintained below protocol levels, particularly in spring when wild salmon smolts are migrating to sea.
“I have consistently given my support for the development of aquaculture and its reported potential for job creation. I am equally conscious of the imperative to develop Ireland’s angling sector, worth an estimated €50 million annually to the national economy, and to ensure a cohesive approach to development across departments and state agencies involved in both sectors.”
The EIS report on the project is open for public consultation until December, 12th. Responses should be sent to Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine (Aquaculture and Foreshore Management Division), National Seafood Centre, Clonakilty, Co Cork.
The Irish Times – Monday, November 26, 2012