On 21 September the Aquaculture Licence Appeals Board (ALAB) heard final appeals against a new Marine Harvest salmon farm at Shot Head in Bantry Bay. The Panel, chaired by Prof. Owen McIntyre heard evidence from the developer Marine Harvest and fourteen separate appellants.
“After the Department for Agriculture approved the licence in October 2016, ALAB received more appeals submitted than for any other aquaculture licence application in recent times” noted Alec O’Donovan, Secretary of Save Bantry Bay. “These came from inshore fishermen, anglers, tourism operators, local businesses, residents and environmentalists. Normally it would take four months for appeals to be reviewed and a final decision to be made. Yet in this case we have had an oral hearing lasting four days, and are not expecting a final decision until the end of October 2017 at the very earliest”.
During the reconvened hearing arguments focussed primarily on new evidence examining computer generated hydrographic and sea lice dispersion models. These examine whether Bantry Bay can cope with the level of waste produced by a salmon farm of this scale at Shot Head, and the potential impacts of sea lice on wild salmon and risks to other protected species. This information had not previously been available, leading ALAG to adjourn the previous Oral Hearing on 15 February 2017. Another key issue for the discussion were potential impacts on the Dromogoulane and Trafrask rivers, which had been omitted from Marine Harvest’s Environmental Impact Statement. Protected Otters, freshwater pearl mussels and Atlantic salmon live in this catchment area which also encompasses the Trafrask Bog Natural Heritage Area.
During his concluding remarks Dr Graham Saunders, an expert marine environment consultant from Scotland employed by ALAB as Technical Advisor in this case, noted his advice is independent of government and commercial influence. He went on to state “It is regrettable the Dromogoulane River wasn’t mentioned in the environmental impact statement and there are continuing concerns regarding this”.
Prof Owen McIntyre explained both he and Dr Saunders will be producing reports based on the oral hearing’s findings. These will be presented to all ALAB members who must then make a decision by the deadline at the end of October. It was noted an extension may well be required as advice will needed on many of the points raised.
Save Bantry Bay would like to thank the Chair, Prof McIntyre, for his fairness, professionalism and control during proceedings. Kieran O’Shea, Chair of Save Bantry Bay and third generation inshore fisherman, adds “We thank all the people we represent for their supporter over the last five and half years. It has been a long journey, and we have had our voices heard. It is now up to ALAB to do the right thing. We believe there is reasonable scientific evidence a salmon farm at Shot Head will have direct detrimental impacts on the local environment, and in turn the local economy. For this reason we hope our appeal is successful and the licence revoked.”
Chair, Save Bantry Bay, Kieran O’Shea, 086 1280303 (mobile) or 027 60121
Secretary, Save Bantry Bay, Alec O’Donovan, 087 7949227 (mobile) or 027 50508