Save Bantry Bay Press Release, 7 March 2014: Simon Coveney evades answering questions on salmon escapes five weeks after the event

Save Bantry Bay Press Release: Simon Coveney evades answering questions on salmon escapes five weeks after the event

7 March 2014

When responding to Parliamentary Questions this week Minister Coveney continued to avoid giving any details of salmon farm escapes in Bantry Bay, stating ‘it is not possible to quantify the potential number of mortalities versus escapees, at this time.’

Now, five weeks after the event on 1 February, Coveney has said the escapes remain a ‘priority’. Yet he has also chosen not to release details, or make public the scientific and technical reports on the matter prepared by the Engineering Division of his Department and the Marine Institute.

Save Bantry Bay are calling for a statement and data to be made public.

Alec O’Donovan, Secretary of Save Bantry Bay stated ‘Mr Coveney has said “three cages appear to have “bagged”, trapping fish and leading to extensive mortalities”. The law requires that any mortalities must be counted and disposed of at a licensed facilities. We are now five weeks after the event. Surely the dead fish have been counted, disposed of, and therefore numbers known?’

Chair of Save Bantry Bay and local fisherman, Kieran O’Shea added ‘I am regularly out fishing in Bantry Bay. Anyone can see the pens are destroyed. Inspection vessels, including well-boats that allow fish to be gathered and counted, visited over two weeks ago. I do not understand how they can have failed to quantify the number alive, dead or missing.’
The impact of these escapes has been played down as Minister Coveney claimed ‘in relation to the genetic integrity of native wild salmon stocks, there have been no documented cases in Ireland of negative population impacts leading specifically to loss of wild stock integrity and productivity as a result of fish farm escapes to date.’
Tony Lowes of Friends of the Irish Environment noted ‘To suggest escaped farmed salmon have little consequence for local wild salmon populations is a mistake. Recent research in Norway has shown farmed salmon can compose up to 47% of a river’s salmon population. They interbreed, weakening wild salmon genetically, while also competing for their habitat and breeding grounds. A single large escape can pose a serious threat in an area where native salmon stocks are already under threat, such as Bantry Bay.’

The recent storms have also proved disastrous for Scottish salmon farms. An almost identical escape event has occurred in Yell, Scotland on 19 January 2014, with 154,569 fish lost. The Unst-based Balta Island Seafare farm lost 2,500 salmon between 14 and 29 January. And, not long after on 11 February a salmon farm North Voe, in Whalsay experienced escapes, though confirmation of numbers are awaited.

Total losses in Ireland and Scotland are thought to be worth millions of Euros.

‘It is clear that salmon farming in open cages is not sustainable’ added Kieran O’Shea. ‘Technologies that allow salmon farming on land are rapidly advancing with facilities now built or under development in Canada, Denmark, China, Mongolia and the Middle East. If Ireland wishes to be a leading provider in sustainable sea food, we should be embracing these technologies. As this winter has shown to continue to blindly promote open cages at sea fail both economically and environmentally.’

ENDS

For further information contact:

Alec O’Donovan, Secretary, Save Bantry Bay 025 50 508 (office) 087 7949227 (mobile)

Kieran O’Shea, Chair, Save Bantry Bay 020 60121 (office) 086 128 0303 (mobile)

Tony Lowes, Committee Member, Save Bantry Bay 027 74771 (office) 087 2176316 (mobile)

Notes for editors

Parliamentary Question No.355
To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine in view of the fact that the operator moved the remaining fish which suffered such damage in the recent storms at the Bantry Bay fish farm on 19 February 2013, if he will provide the details of the fish that escaped as reported to him under the regulations..
– Clare Daly.

For WRITTEN answer on Tuesday, 4th March, 2014.
Ref No: 10819/14 Proof: 401
REPLY

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine: (Simon Coveney)
My Department’s Engineering Division in conjunction with the Marine Institute conducted a survey at the site referred to by the Deputy at the first available opportunity and have provided preliminary scientific and technical reports to my Department.

There is evidence to indicate that due to a mooring failure the nets on three cages appear to have “bagged”, trapping fish and leading to extensive mortalities. The three damaged cages have now been secured. It is not possible to quantify the potential number of mortalities versus escapees, at this time.

My Department, in conjunction with its scientific and technical advisors, is continuing to assess the situation as a priority.

Parliamentary Question No.509
To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will detail the damage to aquaculture operations during the recent stormy weather; the number of fish which escaped as reported to his Department under the licensing conditions for fin fish operations, with specific reference to a company (details supplied) in Co. Cork; if he is satisfied that fish escaping from salmon farms have not and will not have an irreversible impact on the genetic integrity of native wild salmon stocks.
Clare Daly.

For WRITTEN answer on Tuesday, 11th February, 2014.

Ref No: 6714/14 Proof: 576
Details Supplied :[Murphy’s Seafood Ltd, Gerahies, County Cork]
REPLY

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine: (Simon Coveney)
My Department has received a report from the company referred to by the Deputy that due to the recent stormy weather, damage has been done to one of the cages on site and that a fish loss is likely to have occurred as a result.

Due to the ongoing weather conditions it has not been possible to quantify the fish loss but the company has advised that a fish count will be taken as soon as weather conditions permit. My Department will continue to monitor the situation.

In relation to the genetic integrity of native wild salmon stocks, there have been no documented cases in Ireland of negative population impacts leading specifically to loss of wild stock integrity and productivity as a result of fish farm escapes to date.

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