23rd October

Deep-sea salmon farm project on target

BIM has confirmed that its proposal to site a large salmon farm in deep water in Galway Bay remains on schedule despite what it claims is a concerted campaign of misinformation by some who oppose the project on the grounds of scale and long-term environmental impact.

Donal Maguire, BIM’s Aquaculture Development Manager confirmed to Inshore Ireland that the Galway Bay proposal had already completed its Statutory Consultation phase and had almost come through its Public Consultation phase, which ends on December 12.

He added that this proposal was one of three that the agency would be submitting for a licence, and that it was also the first time they had undertaken a project of this type.

 “Instead of the fish farming licence being given directly to a private company, we are applying for the licence which, if issued, we will then franchise to a commercial operator who will be required to adhere to rigorous EU and Irish conditions, as well as additional layers of strict requirements that BIM has set”.

Minimal impact
He said the Galway Bay site was substantially different from most “conventional farms” because it is 1.7km from the nearest land mass and located in deeper water — features which he claims will “minimise any negative environmental impact”.
“This will ensure that the fish farm meets organic standards and demonstrates a real commitment to sustainable production. And with a capacity to produce 15,000 tonnes of organic salmon per annum worth €102m, this proposal offers sustainable long-term jobs and would also inject up to €14.5m directly into the local economy of Aran and Connemara on an on-going basis.”

As for where things now stand with the project, Maguire said he was “fully satisfied” with progress so far. “Everything is on schedule.”

“Submissions will be sent to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine who will forward them to us for our response. Submissions will be vetted by the State Scientist and will form the basis for the Minister’s eventual decision, based on extensive EIS and scientific evidence.”

Maguire revealed that BIM has deployed an expert team on the ground locally which has already consulted with “a wide range of stakeholders and interested parties as well as with the communities on the Aran Islands and around Rossaveal”.

Detail and transparency
He was keen to point out also that from the beginning BIM has handled the entire information-sharing process “with the utmost attention to detail and with full transparency.

“We have tried very, very hard to involve as many people as possible. For example, we have already sent out nearly one thousand scoping letters, and have placed additional Environmental Impact Statements and other documentation around the Aran Islands and west Connemara. Non-technical summaries have also gone to every household on the islands to ensure everybody has all the facts and figures,” he declared.

As for the response to the proposal so far, Maguire said there was a strong middle ground of people who are “still undecided” but he added that they were also “very open to hearing the arguments from all sides”.

Widespread misinformation
He conceded however that BIM has had “to battle” with what he labeled “a massive amount of misinformation on the internet about the process of salmon farming” and was highly critical of the tactics employed by some of those opposed to the project:

“There has been an absolute deluge of dreadful scare-mongering promulgated especially by some of the charitable foundations in the United States, (Pew and Suzuki for example), and indirectly also by the Alaskan Wild Salmon lobby which we’ve done our best to counter.

“On the other hand, particularly from people locally with relatives abroad or with children in school, we’re getting a very strong response to the notion that a development of this kind could mean year-round employment, and decent long-term career prospects.”

Responding to some fears that salmon farms of this scale could impact negatively on local tourism – angling in particular - he was quick to point out that Scotland and Norway both have a large salmon farming industry and both also happen to have a large tourism industry – much of it angling-based.

“Both countries have flourishing salmon farming industries that are many times bigger than the Irish industry – nearly a thousand times bigger in the case of Norway – and there hasn’t been a dreadful environmental catastrophe of any kind.

“Scottish and Norwegian wild salmon and trout haven’t disappeared. The anglers have continued to come and to fish and the sectors have been able to live together. They don’t always like each other but they have been able to live together.

As for the argument raised by those who regard a large fin fish production unit as a major threat to the migratory patterns of salmon and trout in the west of Ireland, Maguire was confident that the BIM proposal continues to have “the very best scientific advice.

“BIM is committed to meeting the highest environmental standards, using the most advanced technology to protect the environment and improve efficiency, and we will impose exacting regulations that will protect our waters as well as support coastal and island communities,” he declared.

Maguire is confident that the arguments against the Galway Bay proposal do not stand up and added that BIM was taking its advice from experts at the Marine Institute.

”We’re following published, peer-reviewed science, and taking our interpretation of the possible risks that could come from this proposed project.

“And that’s where we stand. We see the Marine Institute as the leading national expert in this matter, and as a result we’re basing our position on their advice.

Noel Carr, secretary of the Federation of Irish Salmon and Sea Trout Anglers (FISSTA) sets out members’ concerns to Inshore Ireland

Despite the long established differences of opinion between anglers and fish farmers on their ‘pollute to produce’ methodology, fish farmers like John Friedriksen, chairman of Marine Harvest loves his salmon angling as much as any other sportsman and admitted that salmon cages should not be located near the estuaries where migrating smolts will be infested by sea lice.

Locating them further out to sea on their migratory path as in the Galway Bay proposal is just as damaging, but scientific advisors to the Ministers differ, so our wild salmon smolts die. The immediate solution is to locate them onshore or close-contained where waste and disease can be managed like any fish factory.

FISSTA is a network of clubs on the main salmon rivers and has opposed and objected  to fin fish farming applications since their successful campaign against the ESB-owned Salmara farms in the mid-1990s when our seatrout stock collapsed.  

This new fast-track application system is a blatant conflict of interest in that Minister Simon Coveney announced his intentions for ten monster fish farms and then got BIM to apply to himself for a licence —  the same Government department that is responsible for regulating the activity…

Our dependence on Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) to protect wild fish is now in question as BIM refused to accept a late submission on October 3 last. FISSTA has called on BIM to respond to the IFI submission immediately and before the December 12 deadline so that the public consultation can benefit from the BIM response.

FISSTA has raised public awareness by holding rallies in Cork, Ballina and two in Galway - the latest in the Galway Bay Hotel - where a large attendance heard of our fears articulated best by Dr Roderick O’ Sullivan, the renowned water quality expert with many publications to his credit.

The BIM application and EIS mentions no dangers of pollution, sea-lice or chemical cocktails, as if no such problems will occur. Nobody knows who will get the tender - not even BIM — but many believe that of the 17 companies who have tendered expressions of interest so far, the favourite is Marine Harvest.

This is the same company who recently announced the closure of fish farm sites in Lough Swilly and Mulroy Bay due to the outbreak of Amoebic Gill Disease (AGD) caused by high water temperatures. Will Galway water temperatures be different? The closure of Mulroy Bay to mid-2014 for cleaning out, suggests that the climatic conditions are not conducive to such unsustainable industrial salmonid production.

FISSTA questions the ability of Marine Harvest to manage further sites such as Galway Bay if they fail so badly outside of their headquarters on the shores of Mulroy Bay. Galway Bay is our Alamo and we must not fail the wild Atlantic salmon and seatrout.

Galway Bay Epitaph on Minister Coveney: ‘He Came, He Saw, and ruined it!’



Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) sets out its concern with Inshore Ireland
Why is IFI opposed to locating a deep water salmon farm in Galway Bay?
IFI believes the location and scale of the proposed fish-farm has the potential to impact native stocks of wild salmon and sea trout and their habitat. We have been concerned regarding the negative impact of salmon farming on wild salmon and sea trout stocks, particularly in Connemara, since the late 1980s.
Locating these farms in shallow bays close to river mouths is not suitable. While this proposal is somewhat different whereby the location is more off-shore, it is not without potential for negative impact.  IFI is the statutory authority tasked with responsibility for the conservation, protection, management, development and promotion of Ireland’s inland fisheries and sea angling resource. IFI has also recent additional responsibilities under the Habitats Directive.

Does IFI support finfish aquaculture?
IFI has consistently supported sustainable aquaculture. We understand the commercial motive behind salmon farming is profit but wish to ensure that the sustainable exploitation of the environment will not impact any other sector negatively in terms of environment, economics or socio-economics and is in keeping with the provisions of the Habitats Directive and precautionary principals.
Our submission on the Environmental Impact Statement outlines the issues that need to be addressed regarding the environment and also ways in which they can be addressed, such as a requirement to undertake appropriate baseline research on the migratory patterns of salmonids.

IFI has also pointed to potential economic & socio-economic impacts. What do you mean?
Recreational angling in the West of Ireland is famous the world over. Ireland’s unique selling point for tourism angling is its wild fisheries, unspoilt environment and the Irish welcome. Accommodation providers (restaurants, pubs, fisheries, ghillies, guides, chartered sea angling boats, tackle shops etc) all benefit from tourism angling.
These businesses will be severely impacted if salmon and sea trout stocks are decimated and inshore sea angling species are affected. If BIM’s assertions are correct, then following the precautionary approach as outlined by IFI will assure all stakeholders that a sustainable development approach is being followed.

Has IFI made a submission under the consultation?
Yes. . The full submission is available on our website at [to follow]http://www.fisheriesireland.ie/Notices/deep-sea-fish-farm-development-in-galway-bay-bay.html. IFI is confident that BIM, as the State agency responsible for sustainable aquaculture development, must concur with the content of this submission as a positive way forward to progress their plans, thus satisfying all legislative, corporate and environmental social responsibility requirements.

What are IFI’s recommendations regarding the EIA?
IFI has studied the BIM document, and on the basis of scientific reports has provided comments and recommendations under the headings: Fish Husbandry; Hydrography; Flora and Fauna. Where there is insufficient data we have recommended that further scientific investigation takes place. IFI would advise all interested bodies to read our submission in full.

The following is a brief summary:

  • IFI believes there should only be a gradual build-up of smolt numbers which should only take place following a rigorous review and consent process, and that intensification should be treated as a totally separate application with all of the associated statutory consultations and reviews. In this way, an impact assessment  on the environment, flora and fauna could be undertaken and would allow for mitigation measures to be developed in a more sustainable manner
  • IFI recommends smolt input should be restricted to March only  to reduce  potential negative impact on wild salmonids
  • IFI recommends a shortened harvest period to enable more effective sea lice control
  • IFI recommends that a survey to identify the migration route of salmon smolts through Galway Bay is required to adequately fulfil the requirements of the Environmental Impact Assessment. This will provide a scientific basis on which to base assumptions regarding the potential impact of sea lice from the proposed locations on wild smolts as they migrate.


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