Irish Times, 13 Sept 2014: Another Life: Hillside, shore, sea. What’s changed in all these years?

Another Life: Hillside, shore, sea. What’s changed in all these years?

Irish Times, 13 Sept 2014

By Michael Viney

As the coast becomes dotted with holiday houses, the sea is becoming dotted with fish farms. The farther away they stay, the better

Move fish farms offshore, the farther the better. More vigorous waves in deeper water bubbling with oxygen make salmon use their muscles, swimming more strongly round and round to build firmer, tastier flesh. Stronger currents flush through the cages and sweep the seabed of waste food and life-smothering excrement. Parasitic sea lice are held far from the migrant paths of our last few native salmon and sea trout. Those, anyway, are the hopes of An Bord Iascaigh Mhara.

Farther out, on the other hand, means much rougher sea, even more so in the brand of storms promised by climate change. In last February’s tempests, in Bantry Bay, one cage was smashed into another and upended, spilling 230,000 fish into unaccustomed freedom. Nor is 40m of water – the ideal depth – any shield against poisonous algal blooms and toxic jellyfish shredding through the mesh.

In the lee of Clare Island, round the corner in Clew Bay, a pioneer farm in deeper mooring has suffered its share of amoebic gill disease, a new plague of farmed salmon stemming from assaults by malevolent algae and the wrong sort of zooplankton. The industry’s engineers are working on technology to sink cages to the seabed for safety, ahead of hurricanes, swarms of jellyfish and toxic blooms, all to be signalled by satellite spies in the sky.

BIM has been plumbing sheltered depths off the west for a decade. Of two new Mayo prospects, the most immediately probable is a farm rearing 3,500 tonnes of salmon (not the rumoured 5,000 tonnes concerning some islanders) and anchored two and a half kilometres southeast of Inishturk, a good binocular spot in the middle of my window. A second site, with no plans in prospect yet (according to BIM) is east of Inishbofin, near the islet of Lecky Rocks. A few fierce westerlies will deliver a whole new beachcombers’ harvest of buckets, ropes and bits of net on our strand, but I doubt I shall be first on the tideline. nIreland’s east coast has other

problems and a very different sort of shoreline, seabed and bird and marine life. The naturalist Richard Nairn gives a free public lecture, The Nature of the Irish Sea

, at the National Maritime Museum, in Dún Laoghaire, next Friday night. You’ll find more details at irishseasymposium.com

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