Sea of protest urges Coveney to prevent fish farm plans

By Eddie Cassidy – Irish Examiner – Monday, December 17, 2012

Salmon and sea trout anglers along with inshore fishermen insist a planned explosion of giant fish farms on the west coast will lead to a senseless destruction of the Irish environment and damage key industries.

It has been claimed that thousands of existing jobs in tourism, angling, and shellfish industries will be wiped out by Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) proposals to create mega salmon farms off Inis Oírr in the Aran Islands.

More than 200 people from all over Ireland protes-ted on Saturday outside Marine Minister Simon Coveney’s constituency office in Carrigaline, Co Cork. Mr Coveney had signalled in advance that he would not be present to receive a petition.

“Our mission,” said Glenda Powell from Cork’s Blackwater Lodge and salmon fishery, “is to strive to safeguard our wild salmon and sea trout, their marine habitat, and inland waterways.

“If the massive salmon farms are granted, it will probably lead to the extinction of many native species on all of our rivers and lakes. Why can the Government not see the need to protect what we already have — our natural, native fish?”

Environmental scientist Roderick O’Sullivan said BIM plans, already backed by Mr Coveney, were: “Celtic Tiger stuff all over again — these huge untried complexes are based on Alice in Wonderland ambition, selfish greed, and a refusal to listen to common sense.”

The Federation of Irish Salmon and Sea Trout Anglers (Fissta) put into the letterbox of Mr Coveney’s closed office an objection to the proposed deep-sea salmon farm in Galway Bay.

Fissta is being backed in its objection by organisations such as No Salmon Farms at Sea, Salmon Watch Ireland, An Taisce, Coastwatch, Friends of the Irish Environment, Irish Seal Sanctuary, Save Bantry Bay, and Save Galway Bay.

Alec O’Donovan of Save Bantry Bay said a World Wildlife Federation report on salmon farming had “been buried” out of embarrassment by the Government due to the environmental risks.

The WWF report claimed excessive use of chemicals such as antibiotics, anti-foulants, and pesticides could have “unintended consequences for marine organisms and human health while viruses and parasites that transfer between farmed and wild species, as well as among farmed species, present a risk to wild populations or other farms”.

Brian Curran from Save Galway Bay said anglers have been the watchdogs of the environment and object to the industrialisation of deep water bays.

London-based Dr O’Sullivan said the Department of Marine “refuses to listen to any voice but its own”.

Taxpayers’ money, he said, would support a reckless explosion in salmon farming.

“We voice our objections to the building of giant salmon farms killing off more of our wild salmon and sea trout; we also object to the huge volumes of filth and toxic wastes from these farms; we object to the huge volume of insecticides, fungicides, and dangerous chemicals flushed into our shallow bays and estuaries, and, furthermore, we object to the gross exaggeration of 500 jobs to be created.”

He said salmon farming was highly mechanised, required fewer and fewer workers, and “any new menial jobs created will be cancelled out by local job losses in key industries such as angling and tourism”.

He said it was bizarre that Mr Coveney, who has responsibility for BIM, was asking the state agency to apply to his office for a licence to build the farms.