WORLD EXPERT WARNS MINISTER ON SEA LICE CITES ‘RECENT INCORRECT INFORMATION IN THE MEDIA’
FRIENDS OF THE IRISH ENVIRONMENT: PRESS RELEASE
13 MAY 2013
The Chair of the World Register of Marine Species, President of the International Association of Biological Oceanography, and Marine and Freshwater Editor of the journal Biological Conservation has written to Minister Simon Coveney warning him of recent incorrect information in the media about whether sea lice from salmon farms can cause problems on wild fish.
In his letter, he explained that while he does ‘not normally get involved in such debates’ he ‘was surprised at some of the recent incorrect information in the media about whether sea lice from salmon farms can cause problems on wild fish’ and felt it important ‘that I provide you with best scientific information’.
Professor Mark Costello received his degrees from NUI Cork and Galway and has lectured on marine biology at Trinity College Dublin, in Canada, and New Zealand. He is currently Associate Professor in Marine Ecology at the University of Auckland. He has published research on this issue since the early 1990’s, and was a Technical Consultant to the Irish Aquaculture Licence Appeals Board.
In his letter he points out that salmon lice emanating from farms ‘have proven difficult to control on farms, especially large farms’ and have been ‘linked to mass fatal parasite infestations on wild salmon and trout in Ireland, Scotland, Norway and Canada’.
He writes while an average of five adult lice per fish generally triggers treatment on farms, ‘If there are a million fish on the farm with 1 egg-bearing louse each, the farm may release 500 million lice larvae’. He continued: ‘A key consequence of this is that on large farms, it is possible to keep the number of lice below what is harmful to the farm fish but they may still be producing a lot of lice larvae.’
The current levels of infestation that must be treated under the Iridsh protocol are 5 sea lice for most of the year with 2 sea lice triggering chemical treatment in the spring.
‘At the infective stage the sea lice actively searches for a host. It swims towards the surface during the day. Surface waters tend to blow towards the shore due to the day-time onshore winds. Thus the copepodites [sea lice] are moved towards the seashore and into estuaries so they congregate in the path of salmonids migrating to sea.’
He continues: ‘Studies in Ireland, Scotland, Norway, and Canada involving computer models and field data on infestations indicate that lice from farms may infest wild fish up to a distance of 30 km (i.e. there was no effect detected beyond 30 km). Similarly one may expect farms within 30 km of each other to be cross-infecting.’
‘Like any use of the environment for farming’, he concludes ‘there can be environmental impacts. It appears that sea lice are the most significant impact of salmon farms generally by virtue of their impact on wild salmonids.’
Friends of the Irish Environment point out that the Bord Iscna Mara, The Marine Institute, and BIM have all argued that the sea lice are no longer an issue and that the current treatment protocols are adequate.
Commenting on Professor Costello’s letter, Niall Greene of Salmon Watch Ireland said ‘Minister Coveney cannot ignore the mounting evidence that BIM have totally misrepresented the threat posed to wild salmon by sea lice and farmed salmon escapees emanating from the proposed Galway Bay farm. It is imperative that he initiates an independent review of all aspects of the proposed project.’
Link to letter and Costello papers
Or click here FIE_Costello-letter-and-papers-12.05.13
Further information and comment:
Tony Lowes [FIE]: +353 27 74771 / Mobile:+353 87 21763616
Niall Green [SalmonWatch Ireland]
+353 61 330015 / Mobile:+353 86 826 9222
The Department of Agriculture is refusing all requests for the more than 400 submissions its has received on the application for the first of a planned series of 15,000 ton salmon farms along the Irish coast to be located in Galway Bay. This letter, sent by email and dated 10 May, 2013 was copied to Friends of the Irish Environment by Professor Costello as we had requested expert opinion from him in view of the bad science circulating in the media.
Dr Mark J. Costello, Associate Professor,
Institute of Marine Science, University of Auckland.
Chair of the World Register of Marine Species
President of the International Association of Biological Oceanography
Vice-Chair of the Global Biodiversity Information Facility Science Committee
Treasurer of the Society for the Management of Electronic Biodiversity Data
Marine and Freshwater Editor of the journal Biological Conservation
Manager of Marine Research Information (email) NEtwork on biodiversity
• 2004-present Associate Professor in Marine Ecology at the University of Auckland.
• 2000-2004 Executive Director of the Huntsman Marine Science Centre, St Andrews, New Brunswick, Canada.
• 1997-2000 Founding Managing Director and Chief Scientist with Ecological Consultancy Services Ltd (EcoServe), a company specialising in ecological research and consultancy in Ireland.
• 1990-1997 Research and Teaching Fellow (equivalent to Lecturer and Senior Lecturer) in Environmental Sciences, Trinity College, Dublin.
• 1988-1990 Research Fellow in Ecotoxicology of Napier University (Edinburgh) based at the Scottish Office Marine Laboratory (Aberdeen and Loch Ewe).
• 1987 Royal Irish Academy and Royal Society postdoctoral fellowship at the Marine Biological Association, Plymouth.
• 1987 National University of Ireland (Cork), PhD Zoology
• 1982 National University of Ireland (Galway), BSc (Honours) Zoology