Irish Times, 2 Dec 2013: Salmon watch Ireland Welcomes Reopening of File on Sea Lice Issue

SALMON Watch Ireland (Swirl) has welcomed the decision of the European Commission (EC) to re-open its file on complaints submitted to it in 2009 about the impact of salmon farm generated sea lice on migrating juvenile wild salmon. The complaints had been lodged by Swirl and Friends of the Irish Environment (Fie).

The re-opening of the file has resulted from Fie drawing the attention of the EC to the fact that analysis of data about the impact of sea lice on juvenile wild salmons by the Marine Institute has been strongly contested by an eminent group of international scientists.

According to Swirl, the Irish Ombudsman is also conducting an inquiry into allegations that the Department of the Marine withheld from the EC’s investigation of the Swirl/Fie complaints, a report from Inland Fisheries Ireland which gave a very different picture about the impact of sea lice and Irish efforts to control it, than that put forward by the Department.

[The Department has responsibility for both the development and the regulation of salmon farming and, the Ombudsman has recently extended his investigation to include the actions of the Department of Foreign Affairs in the matter.]

Swirl said the EC re-opened its file on the sea lice issue as a result of its attention being drawn to a paper in the Journal of Fish Diseases in August 2013 which seriously questioned the analysis of sea lice data by a number of scientists from the Marine Institute (MI) published in the same journal earlier in 2013.

The MI analysis (in a version published in papers in 2011) was relied on by Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) in the compilation of its Environmental Impact Statement for the Galway Bay super-salmon-farm project.

The authors of the August 2013 paper, led by Prof. M Krkosek of the University of Toronto, concluded there was ‘fundamental methodological errors’ in the MI analysis and that rather than sea-lice having a 1% impact on survival rates of salmon at sea, the true rate is of the order of 34%.

Despite undertakings to do so MI have, to date, failed to respond to the Krkosek papers’ criticisms.

Swirl chairman, Niall Greene, said: ‘The decision of the EC to reopen its file on the 2009 complaints is a very significant development. Taken together with the Irish Ombudsman’s investigation into allegations that the Department of the Marine failed to transmit critical information relevant to the EC’s investigations of the complaints, this means that the behaviour of the Department, BIM and MI on salmon farming issues is, once again, under close scrutiny.”

For further information contact: Niall Greene, 086-826 9222.

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