Fish farm campaigners claim Minister refusing to release Bantry fish escape report
West Cork Times, 11 July 2014
ANTI fish farm campaigners have accused Minster Simon Coveney of refusing to release the Department’s Report on the loss of 230,000 salmon in Bantry Bay last February.
The decision they say, claims that the work is not completed and that the public interest would not be served by the disclosure of the Department of Marine’s Engineering Division report.
The storm on February 1, 2014, saw a cage break loose from its mooring and upend itself into another cage at Gerahies.
Alex O’Donovan, Secretary of Save Bantry Bay (SBB) said in March of this year that after the official count on 19 February 2014 they understood that the farm had been “virtually wiped out”.
Minister Simon Coveney subsequently confirmed the loss of 230,000 Salmon in the extreme weather event of 2 February 2014.
Despite repeated requests, Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) and Save Bantry Bay have been refused the report, breaking Minister Coveney’s previous precedent of releasing such documents regarding salmon farm escapes said the groups.
Last week FIE’s appeal against the refusal was refused by Simon Coveney on the grounds that the report was an “internal communication in the course of completion” and that it “would not be in the public interest to release the report”.
Tony Lowes, a Director of FIE said, “The Department has announced that it has given permission for the operators to restock this site. How can they do this if the report on the accident is not complete and how can this secretive manner of operating be in the public interest?”
Mr Lowes said the group had been released similar accident reports earlier this year and that the engineers’ report on the loss of 80,000 salmon in Clew Bay in 2010 blamed the disaster on Simon Coveney’s officials’ failure to enforce licensing conditions.
Mr Lowes said, “Fish farms are not regulated by land based building regulations because they are not on land. But neither do they fall under the Maritime Equipment Directive and Regulations because they are not on flag bearing ships.
“We believe this report will show that in spite of the 2010 recommendations, nothing has been done to ensure that these installations are inspected to ensure their viability. That is why the Minister is refusing to release this report.”
The group has appealed the decision to the Information Commissioner and are filing a complaint for maladministration with the Ombudsman.