Fish farm told to stop extracting water
Galway Independent, 13 August 2014
The operators of a Connemara fish farm have been denied planning permission to extract freshwater from the local water supply has been rejected by Galway County Council.
The pipe at Kilkieran which Marine Harvest has used to extract water from Loughanore to treat an outbreak of Amoebic Gill Disease at its fish farm. Photo: Friends of the Irish Environment.
The operators of a Connemara fish farm have been denied planning permission to extract freshwater from the local water supply.
Marine Harvest Ireland, which operates a fish farm at Kilkieran, had applied for retention of planning permission for 3km of 225mm pipeline between Loughanore, part of the Carna Regional Water Supply Scheme, and Kilkieran Bay.
The company has been using the pipe to extract fresh water from the lake for the treatment of an outbreak of Amoebic Gill Disease (AGD) among its stocks.
However, Galway County Council declared the planning application invalid on the basis that had it been submitted prior to completion of the development, it would have required a full appropriate assessment.
In a letter to Marine Harvest Ireland, the planning authority stated “if an application for permission has been made in respect of the development concerned before it was commenced, the application would require that one or more of the following was carried out: an environmental impact assessment, a determination as to whether an EIS is required, or an appropriate assessment”.
Welcoming the decision, lobby group Friends of the Irish Environment said Marine Harvest Ireland had tried to avail of a culture of retention, whereby planning permission was sought after a project was completed.
“Marine Harvest tried to cash in on the ‘retention culture’ – developers who build first and ask afterwards – but those days are gone. The European Courts have made it quite clear that you must assess the impact of a project before you begin, not after it is done,” said Tony Lowes of Friends of the Irish Environment.
Marine Harvest Ireland said the decision to extract the water was a response to “an emergency animal welfare situation”.
“If it were cattle or sheep or any other livestock, an emergency supply of fresh water would be found to meet their needs. These fish are livestock, pure and simple, and there is no difference between their situation and that of any other farm animal. On that basis, as the farmers who own these animals, we must take every reasonable step to protect their welfare. And there is provision for actions of this kind within the regulations governing animal welfare,” said the company.
Marine Harvest Ireland added that it was “perplexed” by Galway County Council’s rejection of its retention application and said it would need to discuss the issue further with the planning authority.
Oughterard Independent Councillor Tom Welby said the handling of the situation had been an “unmitigated disaster” and said Marine Harvest Ireland should have been aware of the dangers of AGD, adding that there was no plan in place to deal with a similar outbreak at the proposed Galway Bay mega fish farm.
“I think this is a trial run in relation to Galway Bay. If it is, it’s a disaster of a trial run. AGD is becoming more and more of a problem,” said Cllr Welby, who called on Bord Iascaigh Mhara, the licence applicant, to explain how it intended to deal with an outbreak of the disease, should the controversial Galway Bay farm go ahead.
“BIM would want to come forward and start explaining where they are potentially looking at getting fresh water from,” he said.
In a statement, Irish Water said it had not entered into an agreement with Marine Harvest Ireland for the extraction of the water at Kilkieran. However, a spokesperson for the state body said that the extraction was not currently affecting water supply in the area, as the lake was not currently being used due to a faulty valve in the weir.
“There was a drop in water level of 250mm at the lake last week, however a drop of this order is not significant and the water level would be quickly restored following a period of rain,” said the spokesperson.