Irish Examiner, 16 Aug 2013: Bord Iascaigh Mhara salmon report dismissed as ‘flawed’

Bord Iascaigh Mhara salmon report dismissed as ‘flawed’

Irish Examiner

Friday, August 16, 2013

By Claire O’Sullivan

The report used by Bord Iascaigh Mhara to allay fears about the threat posed to wild salmon stocks by salmon farming has been dismissed as “flawed” by international marine scientists.
In a paper presented to a fisheries conference in Norway this week, scientists from Canada, Norway and Scotland pointed to what they described as three major flaws in the Marine Institute report used by BIM as a cornerstone of their argument to dismiss the link between salmon farms and sea lice infestations.

Sea lice attack migrating salmon as they pass fish farms and a recent Royal Commission report in Britain suggested that up to 40% of salmon die as a result. BIM, relying on the Marine Institute research, refute this.

The Jackson paper found no correlation between aquaculture and the performance of nearby wild salmon stocks. Instead, it said freshwater habitat quality could be a major factor in juvenile salmon mortality.

But Inland Fisheries Ireland, who are in charge of the country’s rivers, have also warned of the damage to native habitats and salmon angling by sea lice.

The issue is to the fore again as a decision by Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney on proposals to build Europe’s biggest salmon fish farm off the Aran islands is imminent. A decision is also due on Marine Harvest’s organic salmon farm in Bantry Bay.

In the Krkosek, Revie, Finstad and Todd re-analysis, in the Journal of Fish Diseases, the marine scientists state that Dr David Jackson’s conclusions “can be supported only if one is prepared to accept at least three methodological errors”.

They say that rather than sea lice from salmon farms causing a 1% mortality of juvenile salmon, as Jackson concluded, they cause a one third reduction in adult salmon returns.

Alec O’Donovan, secretary of the Save Bantry Bay campaign said the disparity between both sets of research “is the difference between salmon farming being sustainable and unsustainable for protected wild salmon populations”.

“With David Jackson and the Marine Institute’s research now dismissed, the Government has got to take heed of its own advisers’ recommendations from 1994, which clearly stated salmon farms should not be placed within 20km of wild salmon rivers,” he said.

Salmon Watch Ireland also previously questioned how the Jackson study was published, suggesting it was published on a site based in China that charged for the service and allowed those who wished to have a report published to nominate those who would review it.

However, the Marine Institute has staunchly defended its research saying it “stands firmly over all peer-reviewed scientific papers published by its staff and supports open access to high quality research”.

Bord Iascaigh Mhara also said they have “every confidence” in Marine Institute’s “thoroughly researched scientific findings”.

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