Environmentalists and Irish fishermen are alarmed and are actively opposing a plan to create a 1,000-acre massive salmon farm in Galway Bay.
With many of Ireland’s best salmon rivers entering the ocean on Ireland's west coast, they are very concerned for the future health of the salmon runs in Ireland. In addition to the concern about escapes and interbreeding, there is great apprehension on the impact of sea lice on both Atlantic salmon and sea trout.
The development is planned for a site a few kilometres from Inis Oírr, also called Inisheer, an island treasured for its biology and archeological heritage. The plan calls for an annual production of 15,000 tonnes of salmon. On its own, this salmon farm will more than double Ireland’s present production of marine open net pen farmed salmon. However, this may be just the beginning, as there has been discussion of increasing Ireland's open net pen salmon farming to 150,000 tonnes in time.
Western Europe presently has a far greater problem with sea lice than does Atlantic Canada, and environmental groups fear the impact of this massive new salmon farm. A study published last year showed that sea lice in Ireland are responsible for 39% of deaths among young salmon at sea.
Land-based closed-containment salmon farming has become an important alternative, with one facility already in operation in Denmark. A consensus has been building that the mega-farms are not in Ireland's best interest, and that land-based closed containment provides the best opportunity for a sustainable salmon farming future in Ireland.
GOVERNMENT VS. GOVERNMENT
While Ireland’s Sea Fisheries Board is strongly supporting the giant salmon farm, The Government's Inland Fisheries Ireland strongly opposes it, looking with great alarm at the impact the farm is likely to bring to the economically important salmon runs.
CONCERNED CITIZENS OF IRELAND VS. GOVERNMENT
A large number of non-governmental organizations, fisheries organizations, and other citizen groups, plus many citizens at large are strongly opposing this proposed development . These groups include every large Irish salmon conservation NGO, plus groups that include Friends of the Irish Environment. Among the leaders, Salmon Watch Ireland keeps an up to date site on developments:
CONTROVERSY OVER SEA LICE KILL NUMBERS
A number of Marine Institute staff wrote a paper published in late June that stated there was no impact of sea lice on wild salmon. The aquaculture industry touted this study, published in Agricultural Sciences, turned out to have major errors in the computations. A scientific paper detailing the problems with the paper was published in Fish Diseases, and can be read here
The reworked numbers showed that a third of all salmon smolt die because of sea lice. This agrees with a study conducted in 2012 by Norwegian and Irish scientists on 10 rivers.
For a Statement on this from Inland Fisheries Ireland, Click here
This controversy has angered many for the apparent attempt to use poor quality science to bolster the aquaculture project. One press release that provides a sense of the feeling is below:
With the data showing also that the two-sea-winter Atlantic salmon are the most susceptible to sea lice, the European Commission is considering reopening the investigation into the impact of sea lice on Irish salmon
Most recently, on Sept. 2, the European Anglers Alliance, with 3 million members in 13 countries, has called for salmon farming to be contained. They strongly support a more precautionary approach.
Below are several important documents related to the issue.
Importance of Angling in Ireland
Angling Worth 750M Euros in Ireland
Sea Lice Study
Errors in the Study on Sea Lice published by Fisheries Board - by Inland Fisheries Ireland
Marine Institute's Defence of Aran Fish Farm Now in Tatters - by National Trust for Ireland