Press Release Salmon Watch Ireland: The IFA are simply wrong about salmon farming

Press Release Salmon Watch Ireland: The IFA are simply wrong about salmon farming

9 July 2013

In his usual over- the- top way, the IFA’s Aquaculture Executive, Mr Richie Flynn, has claimed that a recent paper written by a number of Marine Institute staff confirms that there is ‘no impact from salmon farming on wild stocks [of salmon]’. The paper to which Mr Flynn refers does no such thing and, in fact, it confirms that significant numbers of juvenile salmon migrating to sea from rivers in the vicinity of salmon farms are being lost to excessive sea-lice infestation.

The paper produced by the Marine Institute staff must be read in conjunction with a number of others produced by its lead author, Dr David Jackson, in recent times, all of which are referenced in the paper to which Mr Flynn refers. In one such paper research involving eight Irish rivers over eight years is described and concludes that excessive burdens of sea lice reduced the number of juveniles returning as adults from 5.6% to 4.8% – an increase of 14% in the mortality rate.

Put simply rivers in the vicinity of salmon farms are experiencing a reduction of 14 salmon per 100 salmon destined for that river and this dramatic intervention is responsible for numerous rivers failing to achieve their potential runs of returning salmon. This in turn leads to a decline in juvenile stocks and subsequent permanent decline in the salmon stock. These are Dr Jackson’s data and they point to a drastic effect of aquaculture on stocks of adult salmon.

In another paper describing the results of experimental releases of sea lice prevention treated and non-treated juveniles on which he was lead author, Dr Jackson noted that ‘….out of a total of fifteen releases at five locations, twelve are positive, showing a higher rate of return in the treated groups. This result is significant and supports the view that infestation of outwardly migrating salmon smolts with salmon lice has a negative impact on fitness and can contribute to increased marine mortality’.

As the IFA’s Aquaculture Executive, Mr Flynn must be aware of all of this and of the truckloads of other papers in scientific journals which establish that salmon farms generate sea lice concentrations and that these sea lice increase the mortality rate of migrating juvenile salmon. In a paper , on which Dr P G Gargan of Inland Fisheries Ireland was one of the authors, it was concluded that the mortality rate of sea lice affected juvenile salmon could be as high as 39%. Indeed, in another paper on which Dr Jackson was the lead author , there is one instance cited where there was a 54% difference between the return rates of treated and untreated salmon.

Mr Flynn also quotes the Jackson paper as saying (as it does) that ‘the rivers in River Basin Districts with salmon farms have performed best in terms of meeting their Conservation Limits’. There are four River Basin Districts on the south, west and north west coasts, one of which has no salmon farms off its coast. In the case of each of the other three (the Southern, Western and North Western) there are some salmon rivers that are severely threatened by salmon farms in proximity to their estuaries (eg the Munster Blackwater, the Connemara rivers and rivers flowing into Mulroy Bay and Lough Swilly) and numerous others that are unaffected because there are no salmon farms near them. When you average that out for each District, as Dr Jackson and his colleagues have done, it is not surprising that you get the kind of picture they present . Mr Flynn should have known that the assertions about River Basin Districts are no more than assertions and have no scientific basis to them.

Finally, Mr Flynn in his press release implies that there is some kind of Marine Institute imprimatur for the proposition that, as he says, ‘the potential impacts of sea lice from farmed salmon on wild stocks are, at worst, negligible’. While numerous papers have been produced on this subject by Marine Institute staff there is no evidence that the Marine Institute itself, either at senior management or board level, have an official position on the question of sea lice. It is suspected, in fact, that there may not be unanimity among the Marine Institute scientists on the subject and that at least some of them are closer in their thinking to the scientists in Inland Fisheries Ireland whose research has consistently shown a clear connection between sea lice infestation and increased wild salmon mortality.

For further information contact one of the following:
Simon Ashe 087 996 2424
Niall Greene 086 826 9222
John Murphy 086 399 1074
Bob Wemyss 087 251 2562

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