18th December

Salmon farm accident: Ombudsman orders DAFM to release report

The Ombudsman has directed the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to release the information it holds relating to the loss of more than 200,000 juvenile farmed salmon at Gearhies in Bantry Bay, following a storm in February 2014.

Farmed salmon feeding near water surface

Farmed salmon swimming near the surface of the water

DAFM refused to provide the 'preliminary scientific and technical reports' of its investigation into the incident to Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) who first requested it in April 2014 under Access to Information on the Environment (AIE).

The Ombudsman’s twelve page review this month finds that DAFM was not justified in refusing FIE’s request under Articles 9(2) (c) and (d) of the Regulations, adding it had not advanced any other grounds to refuse access to the records specified.

'Accordingly, I annul the Department’s decision and direct the release of the records specified,' the Ombudsman finds.

In its appeal to the Ombudsman to review DAFM's refusal to release the information, FIE argued that the matter was of 'extreme public importance not only in light of the circumstances of the Gearhies incident, but also because of the alleged failure of [DAFM] to carry out its regulatory functions properly in ensuring compliance with aquaculture licensing conditions aimed at preventing the escape of fish'.

The Ombudsmans decision can be found on http://friendsoftheirishenvironment.org/images/pdf/CEI10007Decision3.07.15.pdf

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