Fishing and tourism interests have reacted sharply to Bord Iascaigh Mhara’s claim that sea lice are not a significant factor in the deaths of wild Atlantic salmon.
In support of its plan for one of Europe’s largest salmon farms to be located in on a 456 hectare site in Galway Bay, the board said there was “no evidence to support the contention that salmon farming causes any environmental damage”. It also claimed the latest commentary form the Marine Institute showed sea lice amounted to just one per cent of deaths in “absolute” terms, among wild Atlantic salmon.
However, a number of industry and environmental groups have accused the Bord of not “fully reading” the research.
Tony Lowes of Friends of The Irish Environment said the Bord was relying on a study that found the level of sea lice mortality from fish farms was just one per cent of over all mortality of salmon smolts. But he said the overall survival rate of salmon smolts “is between five per cent and 10 per cent at the best of times – everything wants to eat them”.
What mattered he said was that “of the five to 10 per cent that should be returning, tests show that 40 per cent of these are not”. Mr Lowes said the original research quoted by Bord Iascaigh Mhara and the Marine Institute had acknowledged this point.
Karin Dubsky of Coastwatch said “the results and conclusions actually reached in that research are worth a read on the Marine Institute website. She said the research “supports the view that infestation of outwardly migrating salmon smolts with salmon lice has a negative impact on fitness and can contribute to increased marine mortality”.
PJ Nally of Castlmartyr Co.Cork said the most recent Royal Society reviewed, internationally compiled paper, pointed to a near thirty nine per cent mortality in juvenile salmon infected by sea-lice from salmon farms in Ireland and Norway. He said attempts to establish Europe’s largest salmon farms “anywhere along our Atlantic coast the result will be the wilful decimation of our unique Atlantic Salmon gene pool.”
The Green Party which organised last week’s public meeting in Galway said a farm of the proposed size “would produce waste, many times greater than that produced by the current population of Galway city. Is this a risk we should take in the waters that surround the three great tourist landmarks of The Burren, The Aran Islands and Connemara, asked party spokesman Seamus Sheridan.
Patrick O’Flaherty Chairman Great Fishing Houses of Ireland said attempts by Bord Iascaigh Mhara “to pretend that Salmon Farming does not affect wild fish stocks would be, if not so serious, laughable. They most certainly must cause raised
eyebrows among the international marine science community who, almost to a man, cite aquaculture as a serious threat to wild salmon stocks”. The project he said “beggars belief”.
In a letter to The Irish Times this week Jason Whooley chief executive of Bord Iascaigh Mhara said there was ” no evidence to support the contention that salmon farming causes any environmental damage”. He also said the Marine Institute research had shown “that climate changes and other effects on the high seas and not salmon farming” were the main causes of declines in wild Atlantic salmon.