EU Fish News, 15 Aug 2013: Irish anti-aquaculture lobby outraged

Irish anti-aquaculture lobby outraged

Thursday 15 Aug 2013, EU Fish News

TODAY has seen attacks on the Irish aquaculture industry from two separate NGOs – No Salmon Farms At Sea (NSFAS) and Save Bantry Bay – following the publication of a new report into the impact that sea lice have on wild salmon.
NSPAS focused their assault on Minister Simon Coveney, demanding that he halts Bord Iascaigh Mhara(BIM)’s licence application for a salmon farm in Galway Bay until an independent scientific examination of the facts is carried out.

NSPAS argue that, in their licence application, and subsequent communications to the media, BIM have relied heavily on research by D Jackson at the Marine Institute, which purported to show a negligible risk (1%) to migrating salmon from sea lice. This conclusion has been challenged by a team of researchers, led by Dr M Krkosek of the University of Toronto, who state that: “such a conclusion can be supported only if one is prepared to accept at least three fundamental methodological errors”, and that the actual mortality of salmon caused by lice is thirty times higher.

This follows on from the letter from Dr Mark Costello, University of Auckland, to Minister Coveney in May of this year, which expressed surprise at the incorrect information about whether sea lice from salmon farms can cause problems on wild fish. Dr Costello concluded his letter stating: “It appears that sea lice are the most significant impact of salmon farms generally by virtue of their impact on wild salmonids.”

Chair of NSFAS, Paddy Keenan stated: “This proves what we have been saying all along. BIM and the minister have stated that they are relying on the science to justify the salmon farm proposal, despite counter arguments from scientists at Inland Fisheries Ireland, Canada and New Zealand. This work by Dr Krkosek completely demolishes the scientific basis for the proposal and indeed calls either the motives or the capabilities of the Marine Institute into question. We are calling on the minister to delay any work on this licence until he has commissioned an independent report from acknowledged experts. Our wild salmon stocks are in a precarious state for many reasons. We cannot afford any further threats to them.”

Save Bantry Bay agree, observing that Dr Jackson’s conclusions on sea lice have been shown to be “misleading and based on bad science” following the publication of an article by “an international team of experts.”

The team, from Canada, Norway and Scotland, whose work has been published in the specialist peer-reviewed Journal of Fish Diseases state that Jackson’s conclusions “can be supported only if one is prepared to accept at least three methodological errors” in their re-analysis of data used by Jackson they highlight that rather than sea lice emanating from salmon farms causing a 1% mortality of salmon smolts, as Jackson concluded, they in fact cause a one third reduction in adult salmon returns.

Alec O’Donovan, Secretary of Save Bantry Bay, comments: “Crucially this is the difference between salmon farming being sustainable and unsustainable for protected wild salmon populations. With the David Jackson and the Marine Institute’s research now dismissed, the government has got to take heed of its own advisors recommendations from 1994, which clearly stated salmon farms should not be placed within 20km of wild salmon rivers.”

“It is astonishing,” said Kieran O’Shea, Chairman of Save Bantry Bay. “The government has allowed its own agencies pull the wool over their eyes. The Marine Institute’s sea lice research has caused controversy after controversy. World expert, Professor Mark Costello, has personally written to Minister Simon Coveney to warn him that he is being fed mis-information, and now a team of international scientists have discredited David Jackson’s research in a well-respected peer-reviewed journal. Not only is the Marine Institute putting their reputation at considerable risk, but also that of the Irish government as a whole. Yet again, Save Bantry Bay are asking that government stop blindly pushing their salmon farming agenda, backed by bad science, but instead complete a full Strategic Environmental Assessment as is required by EU law.”

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