Friends of the Irish Environment Press Release, 31 March 2014: Department At Fault Over Fish Farm Escape Government Report Calls For Mandatory Regulation

MARCH 31 2014


A detailed report from the Marine Engineering Division of the Department of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries on the cause of the escape of 83,000 salmon from a farm in Inver Bay in 2010 says it is ‘likely’ that if the Department of Agriculture had ensured adherence to licensing conditions it would have avoided the disaster.

The Report states that ‘if a more rigorous/frequent mooring inspections programme has been in place it is possible – even likely – there would have been earlier detection which would therefore have avoided the November 2010 failures.’

The escape, which was caused by wearing on the mooring rope system, was one of the biggest Irish escapes on record. Marine Harvest, the Norwegian multinational, accepted responsibility for the escape.

The 60 page report says that ‘While the Department has no capability itself of mounting its own inspections of underwater equipment it does have a role to play in ensuring that licensing conditions to the effect that licences shall take all necessary steps to prevent the escape of fish are complied with. We did not to my knowledge actually check that there was an adequate monitoring system in place at this site.’

A hand written note on the Report by the Assistant Chief Engineer dated 14 April 2011 states: ‘This Report clearly points to the fact that adequate systems in relation to certification, maintenance, inspection, repairs and records need to be in place for this type of installation’.

The Minister recently confirmed a further loss of 230,000 salmon in a storm event in Bantry Bay on 1 February, 2014.

Clare Daly, TD, tabled a question on the standards used in Irish fish farm construction and the omission of a copy of any standards for the proposed Galway Bay salmon farm. In his reply on 25 March, 2014, the Minister failed to provide any standards [See Notes].

FIE Director Tony Lowes said that it appeared that ‘these installations fall between two stools. They are not regulated by land based building regulations but neither do they fall under the Maritime Equipment Directive and Regulations because they are not on flag bearing ships. They are neither flesh nor fowl.’

FIE have published the Report obtained under Access to Information on the Environment on their website and provided it to the European Commission as it recommends action at both national and European level.

A protest organised by No Salmon Farms At Sea is scheduled for outside the An Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) National Seafood Conference 2014 at the Aviva Stadium on Landsdown Road on Wednesday 2 April, 2014.

Friends of the Irish Environment
Tony Lowes, Director 353(0)2774771 / 353(0)872176316

No Salmon Farms at Sea
Paddy Keenan, Chairman, 087 27 46 755

URL for Report

Click to access Aie14005Record1InverBay.pdf

Editors Notes

The Engineers Report on the Inver Bay disaster details cost-cutting practices, lackadaisical management, and poor record keeping unchecked by the Department.

Details include

Extreme weather was ruled out as a cause, the storm even being of the level of one in every two years.

Contracts for components without certified quality standards set at the manufactory level and without Safe Working Load (SWL) specified are being placed with an Irish company.

Technical tests sought by Department Engineer on the failed nets and moorings were not received from the licence holders in spite of repeated requests.

Investigations that were difficult in this and in another case cited because of the split management between licence holders and operators. This was particularly true where Marine Harvest – responsible for the 2010 escapes – has purchased local companies who continue to operate them on their behalf. This practice ‘made establishing details surrounding this escape event even more complicated’ and made establishing responsibility ‘more difficult’. Some site knowledge was held by one party and some the other, with examples cited of different drawings being used by each.

The group are still awaiting Government Reports on the storm event in Bantry Bay on 1 February, 2014 that led to the loss of 230,000 fish.

Parliamentary Question No. 885
To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will make available copies of the the Norwegian Standard for Containment Systems NS94152009 which the Environmental Impact Statement for the Galway Bay fish farm states will be adhered to in that proposed operation, stating to view relevant sections of NS 9415 2009 See Appendix 3 when in fact the Standard is not included in the Galway Bay EIS Appendix 3 or anywhere else in the EIS; if he will explain the way the public can assess the Standards used for fish farm construction if the Standards are not publicly available; and if he will confirm that these are the standards that are applied to all Irish licensed operations..

– Clare Daly.

For WRITTEN answer on Tuesday, 25th March, 2014.
Ref No: 13636/14 Proof: 1025

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine: (Simon Coveney)
An application by Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) for an aquaculture licence for the cultivation of finfish near Inis Oirr in Galway Bay was received by my Department in 2012. The application and its accompanying Environmental Impact Statement are being considered under the provisions of the 1997 Fisheries (Amendment) Act and the 1933 Foreshore Act.

The assessment process will take full account of all national and EU legislative requirements and will reflect the full engineering, scientific, environmental, legal and public policy aspects of the application.

There is always a strict separation between my Ministerial role as decision maker in respect of aquaculture licence applications and my Ministerial duty to promote the sustainable development of the industry. This separation of duties is strictly observed.

As the application is under active consideration as part of the statutory process it would not be appropriate for me to comment further at this time.


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