Irish Times, 2 March 2013: Protesters oppose €100m fish farm

Irish Times, 2 March 2013: Protesters oppose €100m fish farm


Up to 2,000 people have marched through Galway City in protest at plans by Bord Iascaigh Mhara to locate a €100 million fish farm on a 456 hectare site in the lee of the Aran Islands.

The marchers who wielded banners proclaiming “Save Galway Bay” and the names of more than 20 angling and protest groups, were addressed at the City’s Spanish Arch by Icelandic entrepreneur and wild salmon conservationist Orri Vigfusson.

Mr Vigfusson said he was dedicated to restoring the abundance of wild salmon that formerly existed on both sides of the North Atlantic, and warned the Galway Bay project could “destroy” wild salmon stocks in the region.

The gathering was also addressed by the Mayor of County Galway Thomas Welby, Niall Greene of Salmon Watch Ireland, Brian Curran of the Federation of Irish Salmon and Sea Trout Anglers, Derek Hamilton of An Taisce, Michael Canney of Save Galway Bay, Enda Conneely of the Aran Islands, and independent TD Noel Grealish, among others.

Many of the speakers took issue with claims by Bord Iascaigh Mhara that fish farms do not cause environmental pollution.

A number of speakers drew attention to BIM plans to use chemicals to kill parasites, which would also kill crustaceans on the sea bed under the proposed salmon cages.

This was the route young wild Atlantic salmon smolts would be taking to sea, it was pointed out.

To catcalls of support from protesters, Tommy Casserly, vice chairman of Galway Bay Against Salmon Cages, asked where the feces of the proposed seven million salmon was going to go.

Speaking to The Irish Times, Mr Casserly said he was part of a group which had restored salmon numbers in tributaries of the River Clare, itself a tributary of the Corrib, to levels they enjoyed 40 years ago.

Mr Casserly said refurbishing spawning pools with gravel had been back-breaking and lengthy work, but last year he had personally hooked 80 salmon when in more recent time the number would have been three.

“Now they want to put a toxic cloud containing seven million caged salmon with all that feces and chemicals and lice, between the 15,000 wild salmon which come through these waters,” he said.

Following the protests the marchers sent a delagation to the International Skipper Expo in the Galway Bay Hotel where they were due to hand in a letter to personnel on the BIM stand.

Protesters who had hoped Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney might be at the Skipper Expo were disappointed. A spokeswoman for Mr Coveney said he was in Cork with family following a busy period with EU negotiations and the horsemeat scares.

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