Connacht Tribune 26 April 2013: BIM, Salmon Deaths, and the North Korean Approach to Democracy

Connacht Tribune 26 April 2013: BIM, Salmon Deaths, and the North Korean Approach to Democracy

By Dr Roderick O’Sullivan

A TOTAL of 410 objections lie on Minister Simon Coveney’s desk as he ruminates on the pitfalls of rubber-stamping BIM’s request to build the world’s largest salmon farm in Galway Bay. And who could possibly object to the Minister’s claim that his decision “will rest solely on sound science”?

But hold on a second! Surely common sense demands that all such sound science be investigated prior to the Minister lavishing mil- lions of taxpayers’ euros on consultant fees and a seriously discredited environmental impact statement? And what about the vast media expenses he’s spent on “reassuring” the public on how environmentally safe and financially bountiful his salmon farming extravaganza was going to be for Galway Bay?

We all know that the Minister will concentrate on the “science” that he approves of while quietly ignoring the mountain of damning data stacked against building of his complex. Let’s flick through the main scientific landmarks showing why this complex should never go ahead.

As far back as 1993, Irish government scientists found that 94% of lice responsible for killing wild salmon originated from neighbouring salmon farms.

Due to “compelling evidence linking salmon farms to wild salmon deaths”, the government of Alaska bans all salmon farming. Because of the threats posed to wild salmon, the Norwegian Royal Commission on Salmon Farming insisted salmon farms be distanced twenty miles from wild salmon waters.

After three years of rigorous analyses, the Cohen Commission in British Columbia [2012] blamed farms for wild salmon eradication and recommended salmon farms be immediately removed from wild salmon waters.

The Scottish Oceans Institute found [2012], after eleven years of hands-on investigations, that salmon farming was responsible for 39% of wild salmon deaths. Inland Fisheries Ireland, the State body responsible for wild fish conservation, is adamantly against the building of BIM’s farm – on scientific grounds.

The Marine Institute [2013] showed that lice from salmon farms were likely responsible for a 20% mortality in the numbers of migrating salmon smolts.

Sixty-two research papers from Canada, Scotland, Ire- land and Chile point to salmon farms being responsible for eradication of wild salmon and sea trout. Can all these agencies, scientists, organisations be in error?

By continuing to ignore this wealth of evidence from impeccable sources, BIM’s entrenched obstinacy resembles the catch-cry of the North Korean leader Kim Jung-Un: “The world is wrong – I’m right.”

If the Minister follows the same despotic approach and licences BIM’s complex then the Irish public have a right to know WHY? The answer lies in the words of ex-US president, Bill Clinton, “It’s the economy, stupid!” Two years ago, China was the main destination for Nor- way’s farmed salmon. When Norway awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to the outlawed Chinese political activist, Liu Xiaobo, the Chinese government responded by refusing to accept Norwegian farmed salmon. Mr Coveney flew to Shanghai to claim he could fill the void with Irish salmon.

To fulfil this Alice-in-Wonderland commitment, he must first build a string of industrial-sized salmon farm complexes around the Irish coastline, starting with BIM’s 15,000 tonne per annum con- glomeration in Galway Bay. This will be followed by Mr Coveney sanctioning even larger complexes on Donegal’s Gola Island; the eastern shore of Inis Turk in Mayo; the north-east of the Skerd Rocks in South Connemara, and six other coastal sites have been earmarked by BIM as future potential sites. To win over a sceptical public for its Galway Bay complex, BIM grossly exaggerates job possibilities while their PR machine smoothly glosses over the ominous threat of extinction to the Bay’s wild salmon.

Such a catastrophe will result in the destruction of an essential segment of our natural heritage and will cause serious job losses in Galway’s vibrant tourism and angling sectors. Pollution threats to Galway Bay and to commercial shell-fish enterprises are similarly pooh-poohed by BIM’s in their lavish advertising campaigns and by their smooth talking teams who’ve spent hundreds of hours wooing the inhabitants of Inis Oirr. But give the Irish public their due; they’re not quite as gullible as BIM would like to believe.

The Moriarty Tribunal exposed just how many high- level political decisions are dictated by the lure of massive profits rather than on scientific, environmental or moral grounds. This myopic mind-set has greatly contributed to the bankrupting of our State and to saddling us with long-term crippling bills.

The public are likely to be further unimpressed by the current rumour that BIM’s upper crust are in line for six- figure bonuses should their complex get the Ministerial green light. But, the truth will out – Galway County Council recently took a courageous stand against the building of BIM’s giant farm. Galway’s mayor is vehemently against it. And it’s not only Galway’s officials who’re concerned about the environmental fall- outs from Mr Coveney’s Chinese punt – the County Councils of Ballina, Castlebar and Killarney have taken a similar stance.

So have An Taisce, plus numerous angling and environmental organisations. RISE (Rural Ireland Says Enough), an umbrella body involved with the protection of countryside sports, is, with its 100,000 members, against BIM’s complex going ahead.

Fearful for their islands’ unique status as a global attraction, Aran Islanders themselves appear most unsympathetic to the complex, realising that arriving tourists expect a pristine oceanic environment and boatmen speaking Gaelic, not Norwegian.

Shell-fishermen, anglers, environmentalists and concerned citizens have already taken part in marches and meetings around the country and further protests are planned.

Alone against this public outcry by an ever-widening cross-section of disgruntled voters, Minister Coveney and BIM stand like a coven of flat-earth fantasists, covering their faces; seeing-no-evil; hearing-no-evil; smelling-no- evil…..

In the EU parliament in 1996, when laying pollution charges against the Irish Government, an obviously puzzled German Minister of Agriculture reproached me. “But isn’t Ireland’s environ- ment the finest in Europe?” he asked. “Your green land is money in the bank. Why are the Irish robbing their own banks?”

I didn’t have an answer then. I don’t have one now. Perhaps Minister Coveney does.

Dr Roderick O’Sullivan is a writer, environmental scientist and international authority on salmon farming.

Full copy of the article can be seen here:

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