Rage against the cage

Galway Advertiser, February 07, 2013.

In response to the BIM article on the proposed Galway Bay fish farm, An TaisceÔÇÖs Derrick Hambleton argues against the controversial proposal and outlines his associationÔÇÖs arguments against the BIM case.


Of all recent Governments, this one seems particularly intent on continuing a process of selling off to the highest bidder IrelandÔÇÖs most valuable natural assets. In effect, selling off in a fire sale situation, the equivalent of this countryÔÇÖs family silver.

In our current state of financial ruin, such a course of action might seem to be for some politicians, the best, or, perhaps the only way this country has of redeeming its speculatively loaned banking debt, back to our European financial masters!

Many of these projects will perhaps have negative environmental issues impacting as they will on our land and seascapes. The very latest of which is the proposal to set up the worldÔÇÖs largest salmon cage installation in Galway Bay, at which industrial scale production of farmed salmon will take place. At first sight this particular project might seem to be a sustainable one having little impact on Galway Bay given the bayÔÇÖs vastness. However, this may turn out not to be as harmless as the public are being led to believe.

For while it is being publicly portrayed that these cages will be placed deep-sea and well off shore, outside the Aran islands. They will in fact be positioned above bottom depths of somewhere between 18 and 26mts respectively, inside the islands and in the direct path of outwardly migrating native wild salmon smolts as these leave the rivers where they were born. Hardly deep-sea stuff.

ÔÇ£Infestation of outwardly migrating Atlantic salmon smolts with salmon louse has a negative impact on fish fitness and can contribute to increased marine mortality.ÔÇØ So said An Taisce, in their first submission to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, quoting Jackson D et al (2011). Aquaculture 319, 37-40.

The placing of these huge industrial installations in the path of migrating wild Atlantic salmon has the potential to ruin angling tourism in the whole Connemara region. With fisheries on the River Corrib (Galway Salmon Weir Fishery), also affected may be the Ballynahinch Fishery, Delphi Fishery the River Erriff and Costello ÔÇô Fermoyle (Cashla). Fisheries where we have already lost many more jobs than salmon farms ever provided in angling tourism, ghillies and boatmenÔÇÖs jobs, guest house and hotel jobs, and revenue to fishery owners which enabled them to maintain their fisheries are all now capable of being affected further and thus to suffer many more local job losses in our traditional angling tourism sector.

ÔÇ£One salmon caught in an Irish river is said to be worth Ôé¼423 to the local economy. Angling is worth Ôé¼230m annually to the national economy.ÔÇØ(Irish Hotel Federation/Inland Fisheries Ireland).

With questions currently being asked about what is contained in Irish-made burgers. Some answers are still needed about the list of chemicals that will be given in pellets fed to farmed salmon to keep them healthy, free of lice and marketable, as well we need to question the potential damage these powerful chemicals might do to our pristine bayÔÇÖs environment, as they are excreted in huge volumes in the faeces of farmed salmon?

Source of fish food

The statement made [by BIM] that ÔÇ£global supply of fish meal and fish oil has remained largely stable for the past 45 years or moreÔÇØ is true but does not take into account the large growth rate of aquaculture in recent years which has turned it into a highly consumptive practice. A recent report by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) highlighted the huge growth rate of aquaculture around the world (estimated at 8-10 per cent per year to 2025) and indicated that nutrient and feed inputs will have to increase alongside this. Once all the fish feed has been diverted from other sources, such as land- based agriculture, the industry will have no choice but to find alternative sources of feed. The use of fish oil in aquaculture is expected to increase by 16 per cent by 2020. The FAO report also acknowledges that there are serious concerns about long-term sustainability of the supply of fish meal and fish oil obtained from wild fisheries.

Source: Tacon, A.G.J.; Hasan, M.R; Metian, M. Demand and supply of feed ingredients for farmed fish and crustaceans: trends and prospects. FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Technical Paper No. 564. FAO, 2011. 87pp.

In its rebuttal of BIMÔÇÖs criticism of An Taisces first submission made to the Dept of Ag, Food and the Marine (1st Oct, 2012), An Taisces Natural Environment Office asserted that ÔÇ£BIM appeared to have misread or ignored the numerous research studies which have shown that sea lice have a negative impact on salmon survival.ÔÇØ The papers cited in this response ÔÇ£are all peer reviewed scientific publications and thus deserve recognition.ÔÇØ (An Taisce Natural Environment Office) 12th December, 2012.

ÔÇ£An Taisce submits that BIMÔÇÖs EIS does not address many of the major negative issues associated with fin fish farms, including the impact of sea lice on wild salmonid stocks. The data given is not thorough enough to come to the conclusion that there will be no negative impacts of the proposed farm on the environment of Galway Bay.ÔÇØ

EU Directives, case precedence, tells us; that where ÔÇ£the development is likely to have an effect on the Galway Bay Complex cSAC and the information to make a decision, the competent national authorities, taking account of the appropriate assessment of the implications of the plan or project on the site concerned in the light of the sites conservation objectives, are to authorise that plan or project only if they have made certain that it will not adversely affect the integrity of that site. That is the case where no reasonable scientific doubt remains as to the absence of such effects.ÔÇØ CJEU Case 127/02.

In Galway we are fortunate to have, based in Oranmore, the Irish Marine Institute, who may well be looking at the financial opportunities being offered through alternatives available to us in the exploitation of our oceans marine biodiversity!

What is the medical value of marine biodiversity?

Undiscovered cancer treatments from marine organisms could be worth between US$563 billion (Ôé¼428.5 billion) and US$5.69 trillion (Ôé¼4.33 trillion), according to a recent study. The researchers estimate that there may be as many as 594,232 novel compounds waiting to be discovered in unstudied marine species, and that these could lead to between 55 and 214 new anti-cancer drugs. The study only accounted for anti-cancer drug revenues. In reality, these chemicals from the sea can have numerous other biomedical applications including antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral and anti-inflammatory uses.

Marine ecosystems are under pressure from human activities, such as fishing, and coastal and offshore development. Legislation, such as the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive1, aims to protect the marine environment, but monitoring and conservation often comes with a substantial cost. Demonstrating the economic and social value of marine ecosystem services could help with raising awareness and informing management and policy decisions.

The results of this study provide a global estimate of the market value of one of the most important ecosystem services the oceans provide, and emphasise the need to protect our seas if we are to reap the health and economic benefits they could supply.

The researchers used a mathematical model to predict the value of undiscovered anti-cancer drugs from marine sources. They began by looking at how many novel marine products have already been identified, and how many marine species have been investigated. From there, the researchers used marine biodiversity estimates from international databases to calculate the proportion of species that had not yet been studied. This allowed them to estimate how many novel compounds awaited discovery.

Source: Erwin, P. M., Lopez-Legentil, S., & Schuhmann, P. W. (2010). The pharmaceutical value of marine biodiversity for anti-cancer drug discovery. Ecological Economics. 70: 445-451. Contact: erwin.patrickm@gmail.com

Theme(s): Environment and health, Environmental economics, Marine ecosystems

Published by the EUÔÇÖs Environment Directorate in its latest Science for Environment Newsalert.

Clearly the potential for any under regulated industrial production of farmed salmon to do serious damage to our marine environments would destroy any opportunities for Ireland, unless, and if it were to pursue the above suggested course.

As someone who, over twenty years ago was most closely associated in a campaign seeking the very best of location for the construction of Galway cityÔÇÖs much needed waste water sewage treatment plant (not at Mutton Island) and as chairman of An TaisceÔÇÖs Galway Association, I am hardly likely to sit back and let an industrial-sized salmon cage installation that will produce the waste equivalent of sewage from a town three times the size of Galway, be constructed, without myself asking some questions.

Thank goodness for IrelandÔÇÖs angling fraternity, who, together with their collective representative organisations, have banded together to oppose this faulty project. I would wish that those politicians sitting on the fence, and the general public would fall in behind and support such organisations, and An Taisce, to see this hugely damaging project killed off before permanent damage is done to Galway BayÔÇÖs precious environment.