Letter to the Editor, Irish Times, 24 Feb 2014: Salmon farming under the spotlight

Letter to the Editor, Irish Times, 24 Feb 2014: Salmon farming under the spotlight

A chara, – I refer to the interview with Alf-Helge Aarskog, Marine Harvest’s chief executive (Una McCaffrey, Business This Week, February 14th).

That you saw fit to print a full page piece painting a very uncritical version of the salmon aquaculture industry, save for a single allusion to the “potential” environmental risks was very surprising.

The arguments for and against large-scale open cage salmon aquaculture are however much more complex, and the outcomes far less rose-tinted than this article would have us believe.

With respect to the promised employment dividend, our Government is right to energetically pursue job creation, but not at the expense of existing jobs. For example the wild crab and lobster fishery in Galway Bay, the proposed site for Europe’s largest offshore open cage salmon farm directly employs 200 people and annually exports millions of euro of high quality shellfish to the continent. These fishermen have expressed grave and well-founded fears that the vast quantities of pesticides to be necessarily used on this enormous site for sea lice control will kill shellfish larvae, leading to a collapse of their hitherto sustainable fishery, as has happened elsewhere.

In addition, this project would imperil Galway Bay’s internationally important remaining runs of wild salmon and sea-trout, in a similar manner to which intensive salmon farming has decimated wild salmon stocks in the west of Scotland and certain Norwegian fjords. In the Galway Bay area, hundreds of jobs in the wider angling tourism industry depend on wild salmon and sea trout returning to their native rivers.

Mr Arskog’s ready access to the Taoiseach and the Minister for Agriculture lies in stark contrast to the Minister Simon Coveney’s outright refusal to meet any of the campaign groups arraigned against his plans for the enormous expansion of our open-caged salmon aquaculture sector on the reported grounds that it would necessarily bias his decision-making in this regard. Not only is this stance now open to ridicule, but this again illustrates how much in thrall our political classes are to foreign direct investment (FDI) at the expense of sustaining and growing our indigenous industries. Worse still, this FDI is arguably in direct conflict with an existing and flourishing indigenous industry as described above in the example of Galway Bay.

We would invite your journalist, Una McCaffrey to examine the significant and real (as distinct from “potential”) environmental risks posed by large scale open-cage salmon aquaculture projects, which BIM consistently attempts to justify based on flawed science

In principle we support the development of a sustainable aquaculture sector in Ireland, but certainly not if it risks our existing jobs, our world-renowned inland fisheries which generate €750 million annually and the long-term viability of our coastal communities. – Yours, etc,


Chairperson, Galway Bay

Protection Group,

Market Street,

Corofin, Co Clare.


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