Who we are
We are a group of local fishermen, residents, salmon anglers, environmentalists, and holiday makers, who are deeply concerned about the impacts of salmon farming in Bantry Bay. Our aim is to prevent the expansion of salmon farming in Bantry Bay, and keep the waters pristine for future generations.
What is salmon farming?
Salmon farming (also known as salmon aquaculture) is the industrial production of salmon. Today in Ireland this is done in open nets, mostly in bays and sheltered areas around the coast. These fish farms can hold hundreds of thousands of salmon in an area the size of a football pitch. That’s a lot of fish in a small space.
“It unbelievable that you can have what’s essentially a floating battery farm, and the Government will allow all the waste to be dumped straight into our pristine waters. A farmer would never be allowed to do this on land.” Breda, local resident
Salmon farming in Bantry Bay
There are already two salmon farms in Bantry Bay. One at Roancarrig and another at Gearahies. Now another salmon farm is proposed at Shot Head, which will be almost a kilometre long and half a kilometre wide. Marine Harvest Ireland who are behind the proposed development say it will create two jobs and will not have a negative impact on the environment. We beg to differ.
Bantry Bay has poor water circulation. Typically it takes one to two months for water to flush through the Bay and out to sea. To put a salmon farm in the Bay that creates excrement and waste equivalent to sewage from a town ten times the size of Bantry could be detrimental.
Nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus in the waste can cause harmful algal blooms (also known as toxic tides). In the past, local shellfish areas have been closed and harvests banned as the Bay has suffered from toxic plankton, which can cause shellfish poisoning. Encouraging more plankton growth by adding yet more nutrients to the Bay could therefore spell disaster for shell fisheries.
Human health could also be put at risk. When there are algal blooms, swimming in the sea or taking part in any water sports, can put people’s health at risk.
“I feel so sad that I may no longer be able to let my children swim in the sea because of the pollution this fish farm will cause.” Marie, local mum.
Wild salmon – a species at risk
Salmon farming is known to have detrimental effects on wild salmon populations. Diseases and sea lice get passed from the farmed to the wild salmon, and escaped farmed salmon breed with wild salmon weakening them genetically. Research now shows wild salmon populations typically plummet to half their previous levels when salmon farms operate nearby.
Today wild Atlantic salmon are becoming so rare they are protected by European law. In Beara many rivers are closed to anglers, or are only just opening for catch and release now stocks are starting to recover. So to put these salmon populations, and associated angling businesses, at risk by opening a salmon farm is both unwise legally and economically.
“I’ve been fly fishing in this area all my life, and now that may have to end.” Alec, Anglers Association
What’s the catch?
As more salmon farms are developed, local fishermen loose yet more ground. It’s a real possibility that soon local family owned fishing businesses will no longer be viable. Loosing such businesses after generations has both implications for local jobs, traditions and culture.
“My family has fished around Shot Head for three generations, it would be tragic to see these businesses loose out to multi-nationals that have no connection to the area” Keiran, local fisherman
A turn-off for tourists?
Beara has become a popular tourist destination for those seeking to ‘get away from it all’. Its remote and beautiful landscapes attract visitors from all over the world. Many enjoy the views when hill walking or during water sports. Others enjoy sea-safaris, shore angling and bird watching. Lots of local businesses rely on these visitors. Yet, will these visitors want to return to an increasingly industrialised Bay?
“We regularly visit Adrigole, but if fish farming goes on like this an alternative holiday spot will become more attractive.” Chloe, holiday maker.
But salmon farms create jobs….
Yes, they do. A grand total of two jobs in this case. Is it worth risking the income of so many local small fishing, shell fish and tourism businesses for these two jobs, we ask you?
If you think not, why not write to your councillor, TD, Senator or even Simon Coveney, Minister of Agriculture Food and the Marine who will decide whether or not this fish farm should proceed.
What’s the answer?
A new type of salmon farm is now on offer. These ‘closed containment’ systems grow fish in land based tanks, and have been used for other fish species for decades. All the inputs (that’s the fish food and treatments) and all the outputs (that’s the fish excrement, food and treatments) can be carefully regulated. No polluting substances end up in the sea. Instead, all waste is collected and treated. And, no wild salmon or sea trout are exposed to diseases or parasites.
The first salmon farm of this kind in Ireland is now being investigated, with a view to building it right here on the shores of Bantry Bay. If this is the future of fish farming, now is the time to look ahead. Ireland could become a world leader in sustainably produced salmon.
No longer does cheap salmon need to come at the cost of the Ireland’s environment and local jobs.