Southern Star, 10 Aug 2013: McCarthy and Save Bantry Bay at loggerheads over China fishing deal

McCarthy and Save Bantry Bay at loggerheads over China fishing deal

Southern Star, 10 August 2013.

CORK South West labour TD Michael McCarthy has welcomed news that Ireland has secured full market access to China for salmon exports, but the news has been described as ‘horrifying’ by the Save Bantry Bay group.The deal concludes four years of negotiations, with Deputy McCarthy saying that a ‘strong relationship’ with the world’s second-largest economy is ‘vitally important’ for growing exports.


‘This is great news for Ireland’s many seafood companies’, he said. ‘It is a clear measure of the growing confidence in the quality of Irish seafood products, and can only further consolidate Ireland’s position as a source of quality foods.’

The seafood industry is crucial to sustaining communities in coastal regions, said the Dunmanway-based TD. ‘The industry is now worth in excess of €700 million and provides direct employment for up to 11,000 people in fishing, fish farming, processing and marketing of seafood, and in a large number of smaller ancillary companies that provide services to the mainstream industry operators’, he said.Irish seafood exports to China have grown from €5.7 million in 2010 to €10 million in 2012, he added – a ‘marked increase’ of 75%.

‘The announcement will serve to further boost these export figures.’However, Save Bantry Bay, which was formed in opposition to plans for a salmon farm off Shot Head in Bantry Bay, has described the news as ‘horrifying’. The group has been calling on the government to undertake a full strategic environmental assessment of salmon farming policy ‘as is required by EU legislation’.

It has also asked for a review of current aquaculture licencing systems, which give almost ‘total control’ to marine minister Simon Coveney. Save Bantry Bay secretary Alec O’Donovan said: ‘Before any deal was done, government should have addressed the controversies already boiling at home. We have government agencies at loggerheads, and increasing numbers of anglers, fishermen, tourism business owners, residents and holiday makers protesting around the country.

Now the ink is dry, we can only ask how government can commit to delivering massive tonnage of salmon while at the same time continuing to claim it is making “independent” decisions on current applications to expand salmon farming’.Farmed salmon is detrimental to wild salmon populations and the environment, he said. ‘For Ireland to fulfil even the smallest increase in demand in China, production would have to increase dramatically – as would the associated environmental impacts.

Even if each person in China ate just one small portion (100g) of Irish farmed salmon a year, they would be consuming nine times Ireland’s current total output. The legislation allows for a single minister to ‘blindly push forward with a reckless and ill-conceived salmon farming policy’, said Save Bantry Bay chair Kieran O’Shea, who called for a ‘full independent investigation’ into Irish salmon farming policy.

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