Severe storm causes deaths of thousands of farmed salmon
Southern Star, 8 March 2014
BY BRIAN MOORE
John Murphy of Murphy’s Irish Sea Food
SAVAGE storm damage has caused the deaths of thousands of farmed salmon in Bantry Bay.
John Murphy of Murphy’s Irish Sea Food told The Southern Star that, while the storm caused substantial damage when it up ended cages trapping and drowning many fish, his company is still open for business and was continuing to work with the Department of the Marine and the Marine Institute.
‘The storm was a blow to us but we are working hard to get back into full production,’ Mr Murphy said this week.
This contradicts a statement, released by the Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) on Monday in which Mr Tony Lowes claims that, due to the recent storms, the salmon farm off Gearhies in Bantry Bay has been all but ‘wiped out’.
‘We understand that there are only between 3,000 and 5,000 fish left at the site which, once held between 160,000 to 180,000 salmon,’ he claimed. ‘Due to the very violent storms that have caused so much damage along the coastline recently, farmed salmon have escaped into Bantry Bay – a situation that will cause enormous problems for wild stock and the environment in the Bay.
‘These escaped farmed 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,’ Mr Lowes told The Southern Star.
The Save Bantry Bay committee (SBB) is also calling on Agriculture and Marine Minister Simon Conveney to immediately confirm the numbers of fish that have escaped and the action his department intends to take.
‘The storm on February 1st, 2014 saw a cage break loose from its mooring and upend itself into another cage. While Save Bantry Bay has great sympathy for the owners and employees of the fish farm, this incident entirely justifies our group’s position against the further expansion of salmon farming in the Bay,’ Alex O’Donovan, SBB secretary, said.
Meanwhile, John Murphy said that, while the damage was indeed severe, his company is working to get back into full production as soon as possible: ‘These storms were on a scale never seen in this area for a generation and it was not only the salmon cages that were affected. Mussel lines were also damaged.
‘We are working with the Marine Institute and the Department who are investigating the incident the moment,’ Mr Murphy concluded.