Fury as EU ends probe into sea lice
Irish Examiner, 10 Oct 2014
A prominent environmental group has criticised the EU’s decision to close two longstanding investigations into Irish salmon farming.
The EU pilot investigation, which was closed at the end of last month, was examining the potential impact of sea lice on wild salmon stocks in Ireland.
The investigation was launched on foot of complaints raised by Friends of the Irish Environment and Salmon Watch Ireland, who are opposed to Bord Iascaigh Mhara’s (BIM) plans to develop a 500-hectare, deep-sea salmon farm 6km off Inis Oírr in the Aran Islands.
Director of aquaculture services at BIM, Donal Maguire, welcomed the decision, stating that it proved there was “no evidence to support the suggestion that salmon in Irish rivers are being adversely affected by sea lice from salmon farms.”
Mr Maguire said the decision was a clear demonstration that the EU accepted that sea lice have only a very minor influence on wild salmon survival.
However, Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) said the decision to close the investigation highlighted “the limitations of EU environmental law”.
Its spokesperson, Tony Lowes, said the EU Commission had accepted in a letter to the FIE in July that sea lice infestation levels in salmon farms have an effect on migrating wild Atlantic salmon in terms of their overall survival rate and that the “scientific debate is not closed.”
“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,” he said.
Mr Lowes pointed to a review, published last week, by scientists from Norway, Scotland and Ireland of all 300 available published studies on the effects of sea lice, which 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% to 44% fewer salmon spawning in salmon farming areas”.