Fish farms and public opinion
Irish Times, Letters to the Editor, 23 Sept 2014
Sir, – John McManus, discussing the fish farm proposals being promoted by Bord Iascaigh Mhara, notes that many politicians are withholding their support for the proposed projects (“Fish farms a breeding ground for tensions over job creation”, Business Opinion, September 15th).
In reality, there’s no mystery behind the growing scepticism of plans for large-scale fish farms. Recent studies have shown that farmed salmon has more than twice the fat content of a typical pizza (some 14g of fat per 100g compared to 6.4g for a pizza margherita, with the corresponding figure for wild salmon standing at 3.2g per 100g). It’s not a product that can sustainably be marketed as healthy. Farmed salmon have a high fat content because, cooped up in cages, these fish get little exercise. The fish cages, which are tethered to the sea bed, become breeding grounds for lice, leading salmon-farm owners to douse the cages with chemicals to try and abate the problem. But drenching with chemicals has its own ill-effects and concerns over the level of toxins found in farmed salmon are increasing.
Caged fish are typically fed by dropping feed from overhead. Sadly, this makes for an easy meal for wild fish – and so they can congregate around the cages. But, as mentioned, the fish cages harbour high concentrations of lice. And, while the exact level of impact continues to be debated, it is no longer disputed that the presence of fish cages leads to higher levels of lice infestation among wild fish.
And so, for the most part, politicians are being convinced by one straightforward argument – there are more salaries at stake in Ireland’s pre-existing fishing and angling tourism sectors than stand to be created by the proposed fish farms, with the case made here in Ireland borne out by the experience in Canada. In short, it’s coming down to simple economics. – Yours, etc,