High Court action threatened over Bantry Bay fish farm escape report
West Cork Times, 1 September 2014
WEST Cork based environmental group Friends of the Irish Environment have threatened High Court action in their attempts to obtain the report on the escape of 230,000 salmon in Bantry Bay last February.
The storm on February 1, 2014, saw a cage break loose from its mooring and upend itself into another cage at Gerahies in Bantry Bay. The then Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney refused to release the report on the grounds that the work is not completed and that the public interest would not be served by the disclosure of the report.
He has however allowed the restocking of the cages. The group appealed Simon Coveney’s refusal to the Information Commission, but he has failed to give the group a date by which he will make his decision. In a letter from their solicitors, the group has said that unless the Commissioner gives a date for his decision they will apply to the High Court for a ruling.
Director Tony Lowes said that the recently released 2013 Annual Report of the Commission showed that there had been no improvement in the long delays the group has experienced with its appeals
“74% of the cases were not addressed within the legislative period of four months with more than 33% of the cases still awaiting a decision for more than a year. In his report, even the new IC called these ‘unacceptable delays’,” said Mr Lowes.
Mr Lowes said the matter was especially urgent as a previous report of a 2010 disaster in Clew Bay released to the group had shown that the Department was at fault for not requiring the necessary inspections of the equipment.
“We believe the Bantry Bay 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 the reason the Minister is refusing to release the report,” said Mr Lowes.
“These cages have been restocked in spite of the minister’s claim that the accident report has not been completed. Given the increasing severity and frequency of storm events due to climate change, it is vital that we see this report before the storms recur,” he concluded.