Southern Star, 9 March 2013: Bandon says ‘no’ to salmon farms

Southern Star, 9 March 2013: Bandon says ‘no’ to salmon farms

By Leo McMahon

MEMBERS of Bandon Angling Association, supported by local Mayor Gillian Coughlan, staged a public protest next to the footbridge last week to express solidarity in opposition to the establishment of salmon fish farms in Galway Bay and West Cork.

It was held in advance of a major rally in Galway at the weekend against a proposal by Bord Iascaigh Mara (BIM) to construct a huge salmon farm in its bay.

Among those carrying ‘No to Salmon Farms’ banners were angling club members Bobbie Beare, Fergal O’Regan, David Forde, Phil Dewey and Simon Toussifar.

Fish farming, they stated, had already decimated sea trout and wild salmon fishing in Galway Bay and Connemara, which was hugely dependent on angling for tourism revenue but worse still, it damaged the environment.

With an application for a license for a fish farm off Shot Head, Bantry Bay, said PRO David Forde, and the possibility of others in the years ahead in the vicinity of Kinsale or Crosshaven, there were genuine fears that the same disaster could come the way of the Rivers Bandon, Lee, Owenabue and their tributaries.

‘The state spent millions of euro getting rid of drift net fishing and recent years saw a notable increase in the number and size of migratory salmon on the River Bandon so why waste all this taxpayers’ money by allowing more fish farms?’ asked David, a club member for over 40 years.

‘The environment needs protecting’, said Phil Dewey, who pointed out that the large amount of excrement generated by fish farms containing nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus caused harmful algal blooms which polluted waterways and impacted on shellfish and other species.

Furthermore, diseases and infestation from sea lice, which passed from farmed salmon (some of which escape), were particularly damaging genetically and ultimately fatal to wild salmon.

So rare are wild Atlantic salmon today, that they protected by European law. A major protest and march to outside the constituency office of Minister Coveney in Carrigaline last year was attended by anglers from all over Munster and beyond and further events are planned. Full information is available in a free leaflet or by logging on to

Mayor’s support

Mayor of Bandon, Gillian Coughlan, who joined Bandon anglers at the riverside, voiced full support for their opposition to the proposed fish farm in Galway Bay.

‘Scientific research suggests that fish faming has a negative impact, not only on native salmon and trout but also on shellfish and wildlife populations. The environmental and economic impacts on the Bandon River Valley are of huge concern to me, as mayor. Every year, hundreds of anglers visit this renowned salmon course. Any diminution in stocks would have a devastating knock-on effect for local hotels, shops and restaurants, not to mention the impact on local recreational anglers,’ said Cllr Coughlan.

‘Salmon farms increase the population of sea lice to dangerous levels, making them a death sentence for any passing native juvenile fish. There are also very real concerns of pollution to the sea bed and mass escapes of farmed salmon that would damage the native gene pool.’

Cllr Coughlan called on Minister for the Marine, Simon Coveney, not to grant the license for the proposed ‘mega’ fish farm at Galway Bay, which, under the proposals, would have the eventual capacity to produce 30,000 tonnes of farmed salmon. She said that any future fish farm developments should be land-based, closed containment systems which have been proven to be more sustainable and environmentally friendly. ‘I am calling on the minister to protect our inland waters and coastal environment and not to leave a legacy of depleted rivers and contaminated seas,’ the mayor concluded.

Fully supported

With regard to the River Bandon itself, angling club members said they fully support flood relief efforts and have no problem whatsoever with the correct removal of gravel which is washed down from western stretches, and actually paid to have dredging carried out about 15 years ago.

Bandon Anglers’ Association has around 200 members of all ages and welcomes visitors on a river renowned for its salmon, brown and sea trout. Officers of the club, founded in 1931, include Bobbie Beare, chairperson; Rob Smith, secretary; Micheal O’Regan, treasurer; and David Forde, PRO. The club will be holding an open day with world-renowned fly fishing instructor Glenda Powell on the River Bandon, starting from the footbridge on Saturday, April 6th.

In a recent letter to The Irish Times, Jason Whooley, chief executive of BIM, said there was ‘no evidence to support the contention that salmon farming causes any environmental damage’.

He also said the Marine Institute research had shown ‘that climate changes and other effects on the high seas and not salmon farming’ were the main causes of declines in wild Atlantic salmon.

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