Withdrawal means Coveney will not have to rule on contentious Galway Bay licence
By Lorna Siggins
BIM said it was pulling the application and reviewing the project, first proposed four years ago, due to a cap on fish farm size in the Government’s national strategic plan for aquaculture.
The strategic plan limits offshore fish farms to 5,000-7,000 tonnes – half the size of the Galway Bay project as originally proposed in 2012.
The cap effectively means BIM would have been unable to draw down grant aid for the Galway Bay project from a pot of €30 million earmarked by the EU for Irish fish farm development in the European Maritime Fisheries Fund.
BIM’s decision, taken after expenditure of some €500,000 on the plan over the past four years, spares Minister for the Marine Simon Coveney from having to rule on an application that had aroused opposition among angling and environmental groups. Mr Coveney had repeatedly stated he was awaiting scientific advice from the Marine Institute.
BIM chief executive Tara McCarthy said the board had taken “swift and decisive action”, following approval of the new aquaculture strategy.
The Irish Farmers’ Association’s aquaculture executive, Richie Flynn, welcomed the “reassessment”. The project had effectively stalled licence approval for other projects in the €130 million farmed seafood sector, he noted.
“The scene is now set to make serious progress on outstanding licence renewals and applications being sought by commercial companies with over 30 years’ experience in the business,” he said.
Galway Bay against Salmon Cages has also welcomed the decision, and has stated it is opposed to all fish farms off the coast due to its fears about the impact of sea lice associated with salmon farms on angling and the environment.
BIM is still continuing with its application for an organic fish farm off Inishturk.
The Galway Bay application, submitted in November 2012, for a farm to the northeast of the southernmost Aran island of Inis Oírr ran into early opposition when State agency Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) questioned its impact.
BIM and IFI differed over scientific interpretations of the possible impact on wild salmon stocks.