EU blow for salmon farm
The proponents of a massive salmon farm in Galway Bay have expressed their confidence that the project will not be undermined by the re-opening of a European Commission investigation into the impact of sea lice from such farms on wild fish stocks.
Following an application by the lobby group Friends of the Irish Environment, the European Commission agreed to re-open the investigation, which was officially closed in September 2012.
The complaint alleged that the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, which through Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) is seeking to locate the salmon farm off Inis Oírr, deliberately suppressed a report by Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) in which the state body was critical of sea lice control in Irish fish farms.
This was in spite of the fact that a correspondence from the European Commission specifically requested “the express views of the ministry responsible for inland game fisheries”, which would be the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, IFI’s parent department.
In deciding to re-open the investigation, the Commission cited an article published in the Journal of Fish Diseases in August 2013 which claimed there was “fundamental errors” in work by the Marine Institute on which the proposal to locate a farm in Galway Bay is based.
BIM, however, has defended the Marine Institute research, on which its environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Galway Bay site is based, and expressed confidence that the investigation would verify the Marine Institute’s research.
“The reason given by Directorate-General for the Environment to the Irish Government for the reopening of the file was that an Irish environmental group had provided them with ‘new and uncontested scientific information’ in August of this year,” said a BIM spokesperson.
“This ‘new and uncontested scientific information’ refers to an article published in the Journal of Fish Diseases critiquing an earlier scientific paper published in the same journal by a team of scientists from the Marine Institute of Ireland. BIM remains confident that the scientists from the Marine Institute will successfully defend its scientific findings on this issue and further remains fully confident that the basis for our EIS with regard to the proposed salmon farm in Galway Bay also remains valid,” he added.
A spokesperson for Salmon Watch Ireland, which opposes the Galway Bay salmon farm, said the decision to reopen the investigation was “a very significant development”.
“Taken together with the Irish Ombudsman’s investigation into allegations that the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine failed to transmit critical information relevant to the Commission’s investigations of the complaints, this means that the behaviour of the Department, of BIM and of the Marine Institute on salmon farming issues is once again now under close scrutiny,” said the spokesperson.
A spokesperson for the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine told the Galway Independent that the Department was “currently examining the matter and looks forward to responding in detail to the Commission within the specified timeline”.