Friends of the Irish Environment Press Release, 4 July 2013: Department of Agriculture ‘wilfully misled EU investigation’

FRIENDS OF THE IRISH ENVIRONMENT

PRESS RELEASE

JULY 4 2013

Department of Agriculture ‘wilfully misled EU investigation’

MEP Nessa Childers seeking Commission investigation

The environmental group Friends of the Irish Environment have lodged a ‘request for redress of mal-administration’ to Minister Simon Coveney alleging that the Department of Agriculture Food and Fisheries [DAFF] knowingly misled the European Commission in its investigation of sea lice and wild salmon.

The Department denied having and failed to send to the Commission a report which the Commission had specifically requested prepared by Inland Fisheries Ireland and forwarded to them by the Department of Communications Energy and Natural Resources.

The Report, is a damning commentary on the official position put in by DAFF in response to the Complaint in June 2010. It was sent from DCENR to DAFF in November 2010 but the Department of Agriculture told the EU investigation in November 2011 that it had not received it.

As a result, The Friends say that the EU complaint was dismissed in 2012 and an application for the doubling of Ireland’s salmon production was ordered by the Minister.

Noting that it had not been consulted in the preparation of Ireland’s reply, the suppressed Report cited examples from Marine Institute salmon farm lice records, stating: ‘This does not constitute good sea lice control’. It said DAFF’s position that ‘no empirical evidence has been made available suggesting the presence of sea lice in salmon fish farms has a significant impact on the protected species’ is ‘not consistent with available information’, providing ‘numerous records that provide contrary evidence’. It concluded that ‘Mortalities of salmonoids attributable to sea lice have been well documented.’

The report, marked ‘final’ and sent to the same official who denied its existence to the Commission investigation less than a year later, concluded ‘ the potential exists for sea lice transfer from farmed salmon to outward migrating wild salmon smoults in any estuary with a marine salmon farm present’.

The Report and letters are published on the Friend’s website after the documents were obtained by a series of Access to Information Requests nationally and in Europe and a detailed investigation undertaken.

Director Tony Lowes said ‘In many years of reading files and preparing cases, I have never seen such brazen behaviour. Essentially, Simon Coveney’s Department gave the two fingers to the EU investigation because it stood in the way of their expansionist plans.’

‘We are seeking to have the investigation reopened. We are also asking that plans for expansion of the industry n Galway Bay be postponed until a Strategic Environmental Assessment Environmental Report is prepared of the 2014 – 2019 National Development Plans [NDP] Seafood Operational Programe. The document prepared for NDP 2007-2013 led to an agreement to postpone increased targets for farmed salmon until the sea lice issue was resolved.’, Mr. Lowes said.

‘This Report by the Government agency legally responsible for our wild salmon makes it crystal clear that the sea lice issue is not resolved’, he concluded.

In a letter to all TD’s this week, the Friends asked for all party support to reopen the investigation.

In a statement issued last night, MEP Nessa Childers said “I am very disturbed by the information published by Friends of the Irish Environment about the handling of the investigation of sea lice and wild salmon by the Department of Agriculture Food and Marine. In everyone’s best interests, I am writing to the Commissioner about the matter to ensure that the full facts are brought into the public domain”.

Editors Notes:

DCENR Final Report to DAFM October 2010 and DAFMs denial to EU that they had this Report in November 2011:

http://www.friendsoftheirishenvironment.net/cmsfiles/Library/DCENR-submission-and-DAFF-denial.pdf

Index of full copies of the Requests for Redress, documentation and related records.

http://www.friendsoftheirishenvironment.net/index.php?do=friendswork&action=view&id=1061

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