15th October

Salmon farm says its expansion concerns are ‘misplaced’

The Marine Harvest Organic Seafarm located at Roancarraig, Beara, West Cork. Pic: Niall Duffy

Brian Moore

People living on the Beara Peninsula are being called on to unite and stop the proposed expansion of the Marine Harvest salmon farm at Shot Head in Bantry Bay.

Over 7,000 homes have received leaflets produced by the Save Bantry Bay (SBB) committee detailing the fears and concerns the committee has with the development of a new salmon farm.

“We need to make the people who live and work in Bantry Bay aware of what Marine Harvest plans to do and what effect this will have on the environment – both above and below the water in the bay,’ SBB secretary Alec O’Donovan told Inshore Ireland.


Nutrient levels
The SBB leaflet claims that the waste from the fish farm is equivalent to the sewage of a town ten times the size of Bantry.

The campaign also links the projected increased level of nutrients in the water to algal blooms that have caused severe losses in the shellfish industry in recent years.

“Bantry and Dunmanus, and other bays along the west coast, are currently closed because of algal blooms. Any increase in salmon farming in the bay will cause the numbers of local lobster and crab fishermen to decline,’ he continued.


Current production
Marine Harvest Ireland already farms 14 salmon cages at Roancarrig. The cages, each housing up to 40,000 salmon, are overseen by 40 employees based in Castletownbere and operatives who work in the bay maintaining the cages and harvesting the salmon.

Marine Harvest plans to invest €3.5m in the project, which includes the creation of six full-time jobs during the farm set-up. When the farm is fully operational it will provide two full-time jobs.

The company has applied to marine minister Simon Coveney and his department for a licence to add a further 14 cages at Shot Head.

The new site will cover almost 43 hectares of seabed and 1.5 hectares of the water surface area. This new development will enable Marine Harvest to move fish from one site to another, allowing a ‘fallow’ period in one location while the other continues to produce fish.

Local fisherman and chairman of the SBB Kieran McCarthy is concerned for his future in Bantry Bay:

“My family has fished around Shot Head for three generations. This new salmon farm threatens local fishermen’s livelihoods through the loss of trawling grounds to a non-Irish corporation.

“We’re not against salmon farming but feel that the way forward is to develop contained fish farms on land where all outputs can be controlled and disposed of in a method that is environmentally sound.

“We’re urging residents to lobby their TDs, Senators – and Minister Simon Coveney – to read more, talk to others, and to get involved. The future of Bantry Bay is at stake,” McCarthy concluded.

[Steve, can you set the following in light coloured box to separate from running text pls?]


Marine Harvest response

Statement to Inshore Ireland

‘There has been salmon farming in Bantry Bay for almost 40 years. It has operated without incident and today it is an integrated part of the local Beara peninsula community.

Our proposed new salmon farm site at Shot Head is designed to complement our existing Bantry Bay facilities by allowing improved rotation of our fish stocks and thus improving the overall operating conditions.

Salmon are extremely sensitive to pollution and only prosper in clean and well-oxygenated waters. It is therefore in our interest to ensure that the water quality in Bantry Bay remains pristine.

Constant water monitoring will be a priority for us to ensure that our organic salmon stocks flourish. While our application is currently being processed it is worth noting that, if licensed, the site will operate as a fully organic unit using low stocking density, organic salmon smolt and organic feed.

We are grateful for the support we have received from locals and businesses and we hope that the established opposition groupings can work with us to improve an already established marine industry for the benefit of the entire community.’

The Marine Institute has also refuted claims by the SBB that the algal blooms, which have called a halt to shellfish harvesting along the west coast of Ireland, are attributed to nutrients discharged from salmon farms.

The species of micro-algae that cause shellfish closures around Ireland are not limited by availability of nutrients in the sea. These are low biomass natural blooms that originate offshore.

There is no attributable cause other than natural cycling; relating them to salmon farming or other land-based discharges is incorrect.

The same UNESCO reference cited [by the SBB] acknowledges this, stating that Dinophysis alexandrium and other micro-algae that cause shellfish toxins appear to be unaffected by coastal nutrient enrichment.

The large non-toxic Karenia mikimotoi bloom is a common element of the natural annual cycle of phytoplankton flora that inhabit our coastal waters. The monitoring of shellfish for naturally occurring toxins is carefully controlled by the Marine Institute, Sea Fisheries Protection Authority and the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, who work closely together with the shellfish industry.’


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