Irish Times, 10 March 2014: Minister set to provide figures on escaped salmon from Bantry Bay in west Cork

Minister set to provide figures on escaped salmon from Bantry Bay in west Cork

Irish Times, 10 March 2014

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The Minister for Marine, Simon Coveney, is expected to provide figures of the escapees from the recent storm damage to a salmon farm in Bantry Bay. According to Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) in west Cork, the farm has effectively been “wiped out”.

In a statement released last week, the group said they “understand there are only between 3,000 and 5,000 fish left at a site that held between 160,000 and 180,000 salmon.”

The storm on February 1st, 2014, saw a cage break loose from its mooring and upend itself into another cage, according to local group Save Bantry Bay (SBB).

Secretary Alex O’Donovan said the physical damage to cages was more extensive than appeared at first and the continuing storms prevented any immediate repair. “While SBB has great sympathy for the owners and employees of the fish farm, this incident entirely justifies our position against the further expansion of salmon farming in the bay.”

According to FIE “published peer reviewed research shows that between 1996 and 2004, a total of 415,000 salmon escaped from Irish salmon farms. These fish can interbreed with native stocks, lessening their chances of survival and out-competing native salmon for habitat and breeding locations.

“Escaped farmed salmon may inflate catch-based spawning stock estimates to such an extent that the stock appears either to be healthy or recovering, the consequences of which are that conservation measures are either relaxed or not strengthened, or new measures not being introduced,” FIE says.

FIE has written to the Minister of State for Natural Resource, Fergus O’Dowd, asking him to facilitate a voluntary scale sampling genotype scheme this summer to determine the level of escaped farmed fish in all Irish salmon rivers.

Meanwhile, Natural Resources Wales (NRW) is inviting comments on new proposals regarding its role in the future of rearing and stocking salmon in Welsh rivers. It follows a review into its current salmon stocking activity and its operations at four hatcheries where new fish stocks are reared.

Scientific evidence suggests that while stocking can help to restore populations in rivers where salmon were previously extinct, it is not effective at increasing stocks in existing wild populations.

Studies indicate that hatchery-reared young salmon have a much lower survival rate than young wild fish, and in some cases introducing them into a river can potentially harm existing wild populations.

As a result, the review recommends that NRW brings salmon stocking to an end and instead utilise the money saved to help wild salmon stocks more effectively. It is also recommended that its hatcheries at Maerdy near Corwen, Mawddach near Dolgellau and Clywedog near Llanidloes, should close if stocking is brought to an end.

However, it recommends that a study should consider whether the hatchery at Cynrig, near Brecon, could be converted into a freshwater and fisheries research centre.

Any money raised from the sale of the hatcheries would be used in other ways in areas previously stocked. This could include improving habitats or open up new migratory routes.

NRW will continue to carry out projects to improve habitat and water quality in rivers and lakes, as well as removing barriers for migrating salmon.

Ceri Davies, of NRW, said: “These proposals are intended to make sure we use our resources as effectively as possible to help fish stocks. We’ve done a lot over the years to improve water quality and return salmon to our rivers and we want to make sure work continues to sustain a healthy salmon population in Wales.”

Salmon stocking has previously been undertaken by NRW and partners to restore populations damaged through previous development of reservoirs and weirs, restricting their access to breeding grounds.

The consultation is open until May 27th.

Seafood conference picket
No Salmon Farms At Sea is organising a picket at the BIM National Seafood Conference on April 2nd at the Aviva Stadium. Galway Bay Against Salmon Cages is asking all organisations, groups, angling federations, clubs, fisheries and individuals to lend their support to this picket.

Bumper catch in Ballymoney
A group of anglers from Howth SAC enjoyed an evening’s fishing last weekend at Ballymoney Beach in Co Wexford. Conditions were ideal and this was reflected in catches which included codling, rockling, dogfish, flounders and whiting.

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