Connaught Tribune 18 Sept 2013: Ombudsman’s inquiry may halt Aran fish farm proposal

Ombudsman’s inquiry may halt Aran fish farm proposal

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Written by Bernie NiFhlatharta

An investigation by the Ombudsman into alleged mal-administration by the Department of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries may signal the death knell for plans by Bord Iascaigh Mhara to build a giant salmon farm in Galway Bay.

The decision to investigate allegations that documents were intentionally withheld from the European Commission during their enivonmental impact study of the Aran Island fish farm plan has been welcomed by environmental groups such as Friends of the Irish Environment and Galway Bay Against Salmon Cages.

In fact, the Ombudsman decided to open an investigation after she was furnished with an extensive dossier provided by the Friends of the Irish Environment.

The group have claimed that the EU investigation into sea lice and salmon farms was mislead by the Department, which in turn influenced its outcome.

During their investigation the European Commission sought the ‘express views of the agency responsible for wild fisheries’. Inland Fisheries Ireland [IFI] provided these views to DAFF in October 2010, strongly criticising the position DAFF had made to the Commission. However, in November 2011 DAFF told the Commission they had not received any IFI Report.

The IFI Report stated that the Irish system ‘does not constitute good sea lice control’. It said DAFF’s position that ‘no empirical evidence has been made available suggesting the presence of sea lice in salmon fish farms has a significant impact on the protected species’ is ‘not consistent with available information’.

It concluded that ‘the potential exists for sea lice transfer from farmed salmon to outward migrating wild salmon smolts in any estuary with a marine salmon farm present’. But that report was never provided to the EU investigators.

Brian Curran, PRO of Galway Bay Against Salmon Cages, said it would be very serious for the integrity of the Department of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries if the investigation found against them.

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