Ireland probes department for allegedly misleading EU in sea lice data case
September 18, 2013, 7:42 am
In a letter to activist group Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE), the Irish ombudsman’s office said it has opened a preliminary investigation into FIE’s complaint that the Irish department of agriculture food and fisheries (DAFF) could have hidden information from the European commission on the impact of sea lice in salmon farms.
According to FIE, the state agency Inland fisheries Ireland (IFI) provided data to DAFF in October 2010, which delivered a strong rebuttal of the government’s official position on the Irish control systems being successful in fighting sea lice contamination.
However, in November 2011, DAFF reported to the commission that they had not received any views from IFI.
This despite the fact that IFI’s department of communications energy and natural resources (DCENR) continued to “categorically and emphatically disagree with DAFF position”, said FIE.
The DCENR would have issued a statement to express their frustration, according to documents mentioned by the green NGO: “…there appears to be no useful purpose in continuing this debate in correspondence as there clearly is a fundamental differing of views on the salient issues.”
The IFI paper criticized DAFF’s position as it presented “no empirical evidence (…) suggesting the presence of sea lice in salmon fish farms doesn’t have any significant impact on the protected species.” On the contrary, it concluded, ‘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.”
Meanwhile, sea lice levels continue to rise. Marine Harvest, responsible for 80% of the country’s farmed salmon, has seen a tripling of sites infested with sea lice above the permitted level in the last three years, according to FIE.
In December last year, a salmon farm belonging to Marine Harvest Ireland was one of two Irish farms found to have consistently high levels of sea lice over the past six months.
According to FIE, which said it was using Marine Harvest Ireland’s estimates, in 2012 five ‘cell interventions’ were made by the Irish authorities in Galway and Donegal for persistent breaches of sea lice levels in spite of repeated pesticide applications. Two sites were fallowed and three subject to accelerated harvesting, with a “significant commercial impact for the companies concerned.”
But Marine Harvest Ireland denied the numbers. The Irish subsidiary told Undercurrent: “The figures quoted by Friends of the Irish Environment are wholly inaccurate and misleading. All of Marine Harvest’s data is available on the public record via the Marine Institute.”