EU INVESTIGATION CLOSURE DEMONSTRATES LIMITATIONS OF EU CONSERVATION LAW
FRIENDS OF THE IRISH ENVIRONMENT
8 OCTOBER 2014
The EU’s decision to close its longstanding PILOT and CHAP investigations into Irish salmon farming demonstrates the limitations of EU environmental law, according to Friends of the Irish Environment.
COMMISSION ADMITS IMPACT
The environmentalists provided a number of studies that demonstrated the link between salmon farms and wild salmon mortality which the commission in fact accepted, stating:
‘The various studies brought to our attention and relied upon by you and the Irish authorities clearly show that sea lice infestation levels in salmon farms have an effect on migrating wild Atlantic salmon in terms of their overall survival rate.’
However, it points out that there is no provision under EU law for a general ban on salmon farming. They are in fact limited in their powers to examining only salmon in rivers specifically listed for their protection. In this case, the three rivers cited by Salmon Watch Ireland – the Bundorragha River, The Newport River, and the Ballynahinch catchment – have maintained ‘reasonable conservation status’. Therefore the commission had no grounds to proceed further to court.
A review published last week by top international scientists from Norway, Scotland and Ireland of all 300 available published studies on the effects of sea lice confirmed that sea lice have ‘negatively impacted wild sea trout stocks in salmon farming areas in Ireland, Scotland and Norway‘ and that ‘sea lice have a potential significant and detrimental effect on marine survival of Atlantic salmon with potentially 12-44% fewer salmon spawning in salmon farming areas’.
BIM’s statement welcoming the closure of the case in which they state that there is ‘no evidence to support the suggestion that salmon in Irish rivers are being adversely affected by sea lice from salmon farms’ is both unscientific and unsound.
CONTESTED SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE
The other failure of the system that emerged over the five year investigation was the environmental directorates insistence on ‘uncontested scientific evidence’. The nature of scientific research is to test – or contest – accepted hypothesise. That is the way science proceeds. In this case, a Marine Institute staff Fisheries inspector published works dismissing the impact of salmon farm lice on wild salmon as ‘minor component of marine mortality’. In spite of the subsequent criticism by five international scientists of three statistical errors in this work which rendered its result without value, the Commission was still able to state that the ‘debate is not closed’.
The correct legal test used by the ECM is the balance of probability’. If this test were applied and the overwhelming scientific evidence of the adverse impact of farmed salmon lice on wild salmon fell within the terms of the directive, the outcome of the investigation would have been very different.
CASE REMAINS OPEN
Further, the closure letter from the Commission states that the wider infringement case against Ireland arising from the adverse judgement of the Court of Justice in 2007 remains open and ‘the debate is not closed.’
Tony Lowes 027 74771 / 087 2176316
Read the letter
SEE IFI’s comment ‘Salmon Farms can have Significant Impact on Wild Salmon and Sea Trout Stocks’
PLOT and CHAP investigations were established in 2008 as a pre-infringement proceedings in which member states were required to answer within strict time frames. Complaints were forwarded to the relevant Governments who were encouraged to contact the complainant in an effort to resolve the issue. That did not happen in the Irish salmon case, and delays in receiving documents from Ireland – some over a year in length – led to a long drawn out investigation.
The closure comes 5 years after FIE and Salmon Watch Ireland lodged formal complaints over the impact of sea lice in farmed salmon cages on wild salmon, a species protected under European legislation.
The investigation was initially closed in 2012 but was reopened later that year after FIE provided the commission with further information, including a damming report from IFI.