18th December

Ireland has no case to answer in sea lice complaint says EU Commission

A five-year Pilot Investigation by the European Commission into the potential impact of sea lice on wild salmon stocks in Ireland has concluded with the finding that the Irish State has no case to answer.

The investigation was launched in 2009 following complaints by Salmon Watch Ireland and Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE). The case was initially closed in 2012 but was reopened later that year after FIE provided the Commission with additional information, including a report from Inland Fisheries Ireland.

Salmon-Cage

EU Commission report into the potential impact of sea lice on wild salmon stocks in Ireland states that Ireland has no case to answer

Since its introduction in April 2008, the EU Pilot has been a relatively quick and effective mechanism designed to provide answers to questions arising in the application of EU laws – particularly those raised by citizens or businesses.

Donal Maguire, BIM’s Director of Aquaculture Development Services, has welcomed the Commission finding, saying it represented three things:

“First it shows there was no evidence to support the suggestion that salmon in Irish rivers are being adversely affected by sea lice from salmon farms. Second, it is a clear demonstration that the EU Commission accepts the science, developed by the Marine Institute of Ireland, which shows that sea lice have only a very minor influence on wild salmon survival and third, the closure of the case upholds Ireland’s excellent sea lice monitoring and control programme on salmon farms, which commission officials have classified as being the ‘best in Europe.”

Mr Maguire said he hoped the move would be a "turning point in the long running and sometimes bitter debate about salmon farming and wild salmon stocks".

FIE spokesperson Tony Lowes however sees the decision as a demonstration of the limitations of EU environmental law.

He said that despite accepting that environmentalists had provided a number of studies demonstrating a link between salmon farms and wild salmon mortality, the Commission could find 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, those cited by Salmon Watch Ireland – the Bundorragha river, the Newport river, and the Ballynahinch catchment, have all maintained ‘reasonable conservation status’. Therefore the Commission had no grounds to proceed further to court,” he argued.

Mr Lowes pointed out that a review* of three hundred available papers on the effects of sea lice published in September confirmed that sea lice have ‘negatively impacted wild sea trout stocks in salmon farming areas in Ireland, Scotland and Norway.‘ He said the review found 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 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, Mr Lowes concluded.

* ‘Effects of salmon lice on sea trout a literature review NINA Report 1044 September 2014’ may be downloaded from Inland Fisheries Ireland website: http://www.fisheriesireland.ie/fisheries-research-1/459-effects-of-salmon-lice-on-sea-trout-a-literature-review-nina-report-1044-september-2014

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