Southern Star, 27 July 2013: €1bn salmon farming plan condemned

€1bn salmon farming plan condemned


BIM chairman Kieran Calnan, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney, TD, and BIM chief executive officer Jason Whooley at the launch of the Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) 2013-2017 strategy, entitled ‘Capturing Ireland’s Share of The Global Seafood Opportunity.’

By Brian Moore

Irish Examiner, 27 July 2013

PLANS for the west coast of Ireland, including Bantry Bay, to become the global centre for salmon farming have been unveiled by Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM).

Outlined in BIM’s corporate strategy 2013-2017 document, marine minister Simon Coveney plans to deliver up to 1,200 jobs and €1bn seafood sales in the sector beginning next year.

The development of the salmon farming industry will be a key factor in the projected jobs growth, according to BIM chairman Kieran Calnan.

‘In our new strategy, BIM aquaculture proposals are grounded in Ireland’s ideal position to take advantage of a major opportunity presented by the massive projected growth in global fish consumption.

With quotas and natural constraints limiting the amount of wild fish catches available to meet this need, the majority of the additional supply will have to come from sustainable fish farming. Informed market analysts predict a 50% increase by 2020 in the two million tonnes of farmed salmon, which are currently produced annually.

Sustainable fish farming, when regulated and managed correctly, provides valuable employment, investment and revenue amounting to a 78% increase in volume of production by 2020, a figure which BIM is well placed to help Irish industry deliver on through its new strategy,’ Mr Calnan said.

However, protest groups are convinced that any increase in salmon farming will have a huge and devastating effect on the environment as well as destroying many jobs in coastal tourism, inshore fishing, and game angling sectors.

‘The last national seafood plan 2007-2012 underwent such a strategic environmental assessment, which resulted in a moratorium on the expansion of salmon farming due to the detrimental impact of sea lice on wild salmon populations. It was clearly stated the moratorium was to remain in place until the issue was resolved. Today the issue is far from resolved. Anyone who reads the papers knows that.

And yet the government denies the bulk of research available, instead blindly pushing forward a policy that is ill-considered and potentially devastating to local environment and economy’, said Alec O’Donovan, secretary of Save Bantry Bay (SBB).

The SBB have lodged objections and is campaigning to stop a proposed new salmon farm operated by Marine Harvest Ireland, which is under consideration for development off Shot Head in Bantry Bay.

Local pot fisherman and chairman of the SBB, Kieran O’Shea, is very concerned that any new salmon farming operation in Bantry Bay or indeed anywhere along the west coast will see rural communities losing jobs, not gaining them.

‘To suggest that BIM’s seafood strategy 2013-2017 is either sustainable environmentally or economically is a nonsense. The detriment to the environment caused by salmon farming is well known, and putting small locally owned businesses at risk to benefit a single multinational is ludicrous.

Remote communities that rely on inshore fishing and tourism could be destroyed. I am a third-generation fisherman, currently awaiting a decision on a proposed salmon farm that would certainly affect our business.

It is not just my living at risk, but my heritage. For government to push ahead without completing a strategic environmental assessment just adds insult to injury. Do they not care about rural communities?’ Mr. McCarthy said.

Responding to these concerns, a spokesperson for BIM told The Southern Star that with the levels of vetting and monitoring employed by the agency, no salmon farming licences will be issued until an operator satisfies all existing environmental and procedural conditions.

‘Firstly, if I could correct Mr O’Donovan on his statement that a moratorium on salmon farming is in place. This is incorrect. There has never been a moratorium, there was a halt to grant aid to marine salmon farmers and this is still in place.

As for the connection between wild salmon stocks and sea lice, we follow the research from the Marine Institute of Ireland, which shows no evidence to support any connection between sea lice and the decline of wild salmon stocks. In fact there is some evidence to suggest that wild salmon numbers on rivers with salmon farming operations in the area are increasing,’ the spokesperson for BIM said.

‘Also all salmon farms currently operating in Ireland are subject to continuing and rigorous monitoring and to date there is no evidence of any environmental damage or impact to the areas in which they are located.

Because of the nature of the vetting and monitoring regime before and after licences are granted for salmon farming, we feel that there is no detrimental effects to inshore fishermen, anglers or to businesses involved in coastal tourism,’ the BIM spokesperson concluded.

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