Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Irish Examiner - Calls for crackdown on fish farms

Wednesday, October 11, 2017 by Eoin English Examiner Reporter
http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/calls-for-crackdown-on-fish-farms-460728.html

Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) has called for a crackdown on fish farms after farmed salmon escaped into five river systems in the west of Ireland. 




The agency, which is responsible for the conservation, protection and management of Ireland’s inland fisheries and sea angling resources, confirmed yesterday that 65 farmed salmon have been caught in rivers in Galway and Mayo in recent weeks, despite no escapes being reported by salmon farm owners to the Department of Agriculture, Food, and the Marine, the licensing authority.
Salmon farm operators are obliged, as one of the conditions of their license to operate, to report all escapes to the department.
IFI said the farmed salmon were caught in the rivers Delphi, Erriff, Kylemore/Dawros, Newport, and Bunowen. However, the agency, which has been monitoring the situation in the river systems since August, said the department confirmed it has received no reports of escapes in the region.
The IFI said its scientists are still assessing the risk posed by the presence of farmed salmon in the rivers to their wild salmon stocks which are already under pressure due to significant decreases in salmon runs over the last 20-years.
The IFI board called yesterday for improved compliance and enforcement, and for a full audit of existing salmon farm licence holders.
“IFI have been charged with the protection of wild Atlantic salmon and continue to have concerns regarding the impacts of fish farms on Ireland’s precious wild fish,” said the IFI.
“The licensing regime and best management practice should provide assurance to the State that controls are in place that safeguard our heritage. This does not appear to be the case in this instance. IFI supports sustainable fish farming but cautions against the renewal and/or award of licences where conditions are not being adhered to.”
The 65 farmed salmon identified were caught by anglers who generally only encounter a small number of salmon in a river. As a result, the scale of the escape has not yet fully determined.
Scientists are still analysing the captured fish in an effort to identify their history and maturity status.
Of those examined so far, three of six males were mature on capture and had the potential to spawn in the wild and impact the genetic integrity of native salmon stock.
All fish entering the Erriff are monitored in an upstream trap which allows for the removal of farmed fish but there are no trapping facilities on the Delphi, Kylemore, Newport, and Bunowen systems.
IFI said despite the lack of information on salmon farm escapes, its staff will continue to monitor the affected river systems.
Meanwhile, a delegation of trout anglers from the west of Ireland is due to meet top EU officials in Brussels tomorrow to discuss pike control in western fisheries.
They say the eco-systems of Irish wild brown trout fisheries at Loughs Corrib and Rea in Galway, Mask, Carra, Conn and Cullin in Mayo, Arrow in Sligo/Roscommon, and Sheelin in Westmeath, Meath, Cavan and Longford are under serious threat from predator pike. Martin Kinneavy, chairman of the Connacht Angling Council, said they want an immediate pike cull.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

RTE1 News - Farmed salmon escape into Connacht rivers

Inland Fisheries Ireland is investigating an escape of farmed salmon in counties Galway and Mayo. A total of 65 farmed salmon have been caught in the Newport, Errif, Bunowen, and Kylemore river networks in recent days. A number were also recovered at the Delphi fishery. 
Analysis on some of them has shown that several male fish were mature on capture and had the potential to spawn.
This would have an impact on the integrity of the native salmon stock. IFI says that no escapes have been reported to the Department of Agriculture by farm owners.
It is a legal requirement to notify officials of any such breach. The Galway Bay Against Salmon Cages group says it is concerned that if escaped fish interbreed with native stocks, the genetic integrity of wild fish will be severely compromised.
Inland Fisheries Ireland said its investigations are seriously compromised by a lack of information from fish farm operators regarding the escapes.

Monday, 2 October 2017

Friends of the Irish Environment - Minister blocks bid to revoke salmon licences

Minister blocks bid to revoke salmon licences
Gross overstocking and arrogance is revealed in two submissions to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Fisheries recommending the withdrawal of Marine Harvest’s salmon farming licences in Donegal and Cork.

The claim is based on two submissions to the Minister by the Principle Officer of the Department’s Aquaculture and Foreshore Division published by Friends of the Irish Environment at the Oral Hearing for a new salmon farm in Bantry Bay by Marine Harvest, the Norwegian multi-national that produces more than 80% of Ireland’s farmed salmon.

In the case of Donegal’s Lough Alton, which supplies 80% of Marine Harvest’s smolts, ‘by its own admission the company exceeded its stocking limitation by a significant degree (17%) for commercial reasons,’ the Report states.

‘Persistent’ requests for an action plan to address the breaches by Donegal County Council had been met with a refusal by the company who ‘cited economic reasons for not implementing the of treatment facilities which their current production rates would demand in order to achieve compliance’. 

The Principle Officer states ‘It can be reasonably stated therefore that the company knowingly breached the terms and conditions of its licence to a substantial degree for clear commercial gain’.

At Inishfarnard in the Kenmare River Special Area of Conservation, gross overstocking has been recorded in the annual Department’s Fin Fish Farm Inspection Reports since 2012. An application for increased capacity was refused by the Minister in 2010 as ‘Such a major increase in stocking capacity would have to be the subject of a new licence application accompanied by the necessary Environmental Impact Statements’.

The Inishfarnard site, which is licensed to contain no more than 500 tons of fish, had a standing stock that was 26% above the permitted level before the input of 820,604 young fish in March 2014, this input itself being 105% in excess of the permitted level of 400,000 fish.

In response to this major non-conformity raised by Aquaculture Stewardship Council the company made no apology or commitment to meet the stocking requirements, simply stating ‘the current limit of 500 tons per annum would require harvest at 1.25 kg which is not a saleable size.’

Marine Harvest, the Norwegian multi-national that produces more than 80% of Ireland’s farmed salmon, called the licensing system ‘Anachronistic, legally and technically meaningless in its application to modern good farming practice’. 

FIE published the reports as part of its presentation to the recent Oral Hearing of a number appeals against the company’s proposed new salmon farm in Bantry Bay. They told the Oral Hearing, held in Bantry earlier this month, that ‘an applicant who openly informs a licencing authority that he has no intention of meeting his licencing conditions is not a fit person to hold a licence’.

The consequences of this overstocking, according to the environmental group, are ‘that the pressures on the environment has not been assessed, as required by European and national law’. The overstocking also ‘undermines the Department’s sea lice control, where the number of lice are based on samples taken multiplied by the number of fish licenced. If the site is overstocked by 105%, the number of lice will also be 105% higher than the recorded level.’

The detailed 20 page submissions were rejected by the Minister because of proportionality and the commercial consequences to the company.

However, the Principle Officer’s Submission addressed the issue of the commercial consequences:

‘While it can be argued that the development of the industry will be adversely affected by any sanction against the company, the overriding obligation of the department is to take action against the operator in accordance with the obligations set out in the legislation. Anything less will seriously undermine the State’s regulatory system in relation to Marine aquaculture. The long-term effect this would have on the regulation of the industry is as serious as it is obvious.’

FIE said that the failure to deal vigorously with significant breaches of licence conditions is ‘a result of the conflict of interest within the Department between its role as industry developer and as industry regulator which creates an objective bias in the functioning of the Department.’

In separate submissions, they have urged the Government to ‘reorganise the Department so that the Marine Institute and the Sea Food Protection Authority are administered by a non-fisheries division of the Department. The necessary and appropriate checks and balances incumbent on the Department in the exercise of its functions is impossible under the current regime.’

According to FIE Director Tony Lowes, who made the presentations, the publication of the Reports in hard copy and electronically at the Oral Hearing was not covered by the local or national press present. Complementing the UK’s Sunday Times, which today is covering the story, Mr. Lowes said that ‘if the Washington Post was right in saying that ‘democracy dies in darkness’, our struggle to bring out the story shows that the lights have been truly extinguished by the Irish media’.

Creed blocked bid to revoke salmon licences


Thursday, 21 September 2017

Irish Examiner: ‘Already too many salmon farms in Bantry’

An organisation opposed to the development of another salmon farm in Bantry Bay says the area is “already overburdened” with them and believes there’s a direct link between such farms and sea lice infestation which can kill wild fish.

Aquaculture sector loses $1 billion a year to outbreaks of tiny crustaceans infesting and devouring fish farmed for human consumption

Independent.co.uk Tuesday 19 September 2017 
http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/news/salmon-sea-lice-plague-outbreak-fish-farms-global-stocks-depleted-acquaculture-industry-a7955326.html

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Irish Examiner - €3.5m salmon farm hearing resumes

Irish Examiner
Wednesday, September 20, 2017
Sean O’Riordan
http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/35m-salmon-farm-hearing-resumes-459314.html

A consultant representing a company planning to develop a €3.5m salmon farm in Bantry Bay has told a reconvened oral hearing it will not have a detrimental impact on the general environment or wild fish stocks.
Marine Harvest has been granted a licence for the 16-cage salmon farm off Shot Head and proposes to produce 3,500 tonnes of fish from it every two years. The company already runs a 12-cage salmon farm 8km west of the site at Roancarrig.
Up to 50 people attended the Acquaculture Licenses Appeal Board oral hearing yesterday. The hearing will continue today and is expected to concentrate on submissions from 14 objecting groups and organisations.
The hearing had been adjourned last February due to an oversight that led to a technical report not being released to all parties. This hydrolic flow report was eventually delivered yesterday on behalf of Marine Harvest by Neil Bass, from consultants RPS.
He said waste from the salmon farm was modelled on “worst case” discharge scenarios.
Dr Bass said that even with a worst case situation over a year there would only be 13mm of solids (faeces and uneaten food) deposited under the salmon pens and this would not result in any degradation of the site as the deposits would be grazed on by small seabed-dwelling creatures and gently dispersed by currents.
“On sites which are properly managed you’ll see virtually nothing,” he said.
Dr Bass said the maximum stocking density would be 10 kilos of salmon per cubic metre of water.
He said that this low stocking rate would reduce stress and disease in the fish and residue from medication required to combat sea lice infestation in the salmon would not cause any problems as Bantry Bay is flushed by 27bn tonnes of water every month — equivalant to the weight of the world’s human population.
Chairman of the oral hearing, Owen McIntyre, heard one local objector claim that 13mm of solids deposited under the pens would kill off shrimp and prawns. Angling guide and fisheries manager Brian Curran, who is based in Galway, claimed that Chilean scientists had recently published a paper which stated that some medications used on farmed salmon were toxic to lobster, crab and shrimps.
Dr Bass said there was an entirely different situation in Chile as its farmed salmon industry had gone through two disasters due to “greed”. Concerns have been expressed that an outbreak of sea lice in the pens could kill not only the farmed salmon but wild salmon and sea trout.
Dr Bass said statutory monitoring of sea lice levels in all Irish salmon farms took place 14 times each year. If infestation is over a certain level the fish must be treated to kill the parasite.
He said just six treatments were needed in the past eight years in all salmon farms in Bantry Bay, which was well below the national average.
Dr Bass admitted that the sea lice could get into local rivers from salmon farms, but maintained they could not get there in sufficient numbers to cause any serious infestation.
However, he said where a salmon farm is close to a river the river “could be in trouble” from sea lice.
This, he added, was not the case in Bantry where the salmon farms were not near rivers.
A number of placards were placed by objectors at the entrance to the hotel’s conference centre at the Westlodge Hotel where the oral hearing is taking place.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Irish Examiner: High-rise fish hold solutions

http://www.irishexaminer.com/lifestyle/outdoors/donal-hickey/high-rise-fish-hold-solutions-459134.html

It may sound like a tall order, but the solution to rows about ocean-based fish farms could well be up in the sky. Fish are being reared successfully in plastic fish tanks containing 80,000 litres of salt water, 15 floors up on a high-rise building in Hong Kong, where people have voracious appetites for fish. The idea is also catching on in other parts of Asia.

Earlier this year, vehement opposition was voiced at an oral planning hearing into plans by a Norwegian company, Marine Harvest, for a salmon farm off Shot Head, in Bantry Bay, Co Cork. Twelve appeals were lodged against a decision by the Department of Agriculture to licence the project in an area of just over 100 acres.
Due to ongoing concerns about pollution from fish farms, sea lice and threats to wild fish, there’s been a movement, internationally, towards on-land fish farms in recent years. More than 10,000 such farms are now in operation, Fish Farm News reports.
Louis Luyken, of the Save Bantry Bay group, says nobody in the area wants salmon farms which have “the wrong fish in the wrong places”. He says the only way of bringing jobs and wealth is through a big number of fish farms on land over the whole country.
These would include special, closed containment systems and closed buildings in which the water would be biologically cleaned and waste used as fertiliser on the land for other production by the same farmers, he adds. On-land fish farms use a recirculating aquaculture system described by the industry as an eco-friendly, land-based fish tank.
Denmark, for instance, has half its farms on this system, while Finland has never allowed fish farms on its seas.
Two years ago, a report for the Irish fish- farming industry shot down on-land farms, claiming capital costs would be too high and would make it difficult to be competitive. Environmentalists and others, however, remain unconvinced and will continue with campaigns similar to Save Bantry Bay.
The vertical fish farms in Hong Kong are being put on rooftops because land there is really scarce. White-fleshed grouper fish are being produced to supply a huge local market.
Oceanethix, one of the companies involved, produces about two tonnes of grouper per week and is also selling its water-recycling systems to other companies across Asia setting up so-called fish farms in the sky.
Also, a growing number of organic fruit and vegetable plots are being created on top of skyscrapers and other spare rooftop spaces in bustling Hong Kong.
Nevertheless it’s safe to say it will be a long time before we see such activity on the roof of Cork County Hall, or the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin.

Call to Action - Salmon Farming in Ireland

The campaign to have salmon farms taken out of Ireland’s beautiful bays and coastal areas has been ongoing for years yet our elected politicians hold quiet on the matter. Lets get them to discuss the future of salmon farming in Ireland at national and EU level. Scientific evidence proves that salmon farms harm the environment yet for some reason these foreign owned corporate companies are allowed to come in and produce farmed salmon along the Irish Coast.

We want salmon farms taken off the Irish coast and moved into land based closed containment systems for safer food production and cleaner environmental protection.  


A list of all TD’s and Local Councillors can be found on Contact.ie. The message is clear - No to Salmon Farms on the Irish Coast. Send one message to all of Ireland’s politicians today on Contact.ie and make sure you get answers.


Friday, 11 August 2017

Financial Times: The terrible cost of Scotland’s salmon farms

The veteran angler Jeremy Paxman bemoans the rise of salmon farms and the ‘bleak’ prospects for these wild fish

Article: https://www.ft.com/content/8b73e21a-7cf8-11e7-ab01-a13271d1ee9c


Like, I’m sure, most FT Weekend readers, I spent last Sunday at Ikea, on the North Circular Road in Wembley. It is not an experience to be enjoyed by those who appreciate peace and solitude. But at least there is food to be had. A poster on the cafeteria wall advertises that traditional Scandinavian delicacy, salmon. “Good and Good For You”, the ad claims, followed by lots of stuff about the benefits of fatty acids, antioxidants and vitamins. The poster is not unusual: salmon has long been sold on the prospect of cleanliness and health. The fantasy is that it comes to your table fresh from wild seas. The impression is fraudulent. Most salmon arrives in the kitchen not from untamed nature but from cages in the sea. You cannot see the end of the salmon’s tail in the Ikea poster, because it is covered in fishmonger’s ice. If this dead fish lived a typical life, the tail will be a raggedy thing. But then, a farmed salmon doesn’t need much of a tail, because it has nowhere much to swim. The 250 salmon farms on the western coast of Scotland may be set in one of the most magnificent wildernesses in Europe, but the farmed salmon has no freedom. 

A single circle of mesh measuring 40 metres across may contain up to almost 70,000 fish; on a farm of 12 cages that is getting on for a million fish. It is like a series of floating battery hen sheds. You do not hear animal rights activists protesting because it is the misfortune of fish not to be cuddly, not to make audible sounds, to have no eyelids and to live in an alien environment. That is their lot. I freely confess there is something absurd about the fact that the only defenders of fish freedoms are those who want to catch them. But that’s how it is: there is nothing to stop the heart like the sight of a silver salmon, fresh from the sea, leaping up a river on its journey to its spawning redds. In decades of chasing these untameable animals (and learning to respect their contempt for the flies I have spent hours tying) the prospects for these fish look as bleak as they have ever been. There are plenty of theories to explain why wild salmon seem imperilled. Ghillies tell tales of ghost trawlers from Russia just over the horizon. Environmentalists talk of global warming changing sea temperatures. The truth is no one knows the overall picture. But one thing is observable: salmon farms have done enormous harm. Last Tuesday, Salmon and Trout Conservation Scotland announced a collapse in the number of wild salmon returning to spawn in the most closely monitored river in the western Highlands. 

The river Awe is a short, pretty river on which a fish counter was installed when a hydroelectric dam was constructed, so the figures are accurate. This year those numbers are the lowest recorded. A similar disaster has hit other west-coast rivers, while those on the east coast have been unaffected. (The salmon farms are all on Scotland’s west coast.) Conservationists are confident of the cause of the decline: young salmon beginning their oceanic migration must pass dozens of cages at sea where captive fish are bred for the table. Wild salmon do not return to rivers like the Awe because they were killed at the start of their migration to sea. Only a few decades ago, you ate Atlantic salmon if you were lucky enough to be a toff, or one of his employees. Now it is ubiquitous, piled high in supermarket fridges or lying pink and flabby on plates at wedding receptions and awards dinners. The discovery of how to farm fish by the hundreds of thousands has revolutionised the food industry. But when you rear fish in the quantities necessary to meet growing demand, you start playing with the environment. Confining naturally migratory and carnivorous animals in packed pens produces enormous quantities of faeces, which covers the seabed beneath. 

 The cages provide ideal breeding grounds for the sea louse, which, smaller than a fingernail, eats into the salmon’s skin and either directly or indirectly (by exposing them to infections) kills them. Unfortunately, the salmon farmers like to site cages close to the shore, where they are easier to manage. Often the farms are in estuaries, where the tidal flows that might wash away residues are smaller than in the open sea. Salmon and trout migrating to sea or returning to their natal rivers to spawn must swim through clouds of sea lice. In 1987, a salmon farm opened in Loch Ewe, surrounded by the mountains of Wester Ross, setting for John Buchan’s novel John Macnab. Loch Maree, a freshwater loch at the head of the river emptying into Loch Ewe, was at the time a world-famous destination for anglers trying to catch sea trout, its hotel booked 12 months or more in advance. But the year after the salmon farm opened, the number of sea trout caught in Loch Maree collapsed. It has never recovered. 

The fishermen and the boatmen disappeared too. A report by Andrew Walker, formerly of the Scottish government’s Fisheries Research Services, reached the cautious conclusion that “the introduction of salmon farming in Loch Ewe played a prominent part” in the disappearance of sea trout. It is a similar picture on many, previously prolific, West Coast salmon rivers. Salmon runs on west coast rivers have fallen by about half. Responding to the reports of environmental damage the industry began to try to kill off the sea lice with chemicals. Unsurprisingly the lice began to develop a resistance to the chemicals, which meant they had to be used in greater quantities. One of the latest weapons is Azamethiphos, an organophosphate, belonging to the same toxic family as pesticides, herbicides and some nerve agents. The most popular chemical at present seems to be “Slice”, whose active ingredient is emamectin benzoate, a powder added to the salmon feed to kill the parasites.


The industry argues that it leads to the creation of thousands of jobs. There’s certainly no denying fish farming has been a commercial success story. By 2015, the Scottish industry was producing nearly 180,000 tons of salmon. The Scottish government hopes production will double in value by 2030. It has bought the argument that fish farming offers a way of creating employment in the wilderness communities essential to Scotland’s sense of itself. But that is an exaggerated claim and anyway, so does angling. The salmon farms are highly automated and according to the Scottish government’s 2015 fish farm production survey, total full-time employment in marine salmon farms amounts to a mere 1,256 jobs in an economically active population of 3.5m. It is less than 1 per cent of those employed by the NHS in Scotland. Yet the Edinburgh government looks to have decided it is more important to let the farmers have what they want than to heed environmentalists. The Scottish Environment Protection Agency had been discussing whether to ban emamectin. But after pressure from the salmon farmers on the Scottish government, the agency says it is now merely “tightening conditions for the medicine’s use”. For what it’s worth, a committee of the Scottish parliament has decided to hold its own inquiry into the effects of fish farming. This “Scottish” industry is largely controlled by half-a-dozen Norwegian companies, which are able to benefit from the fact that environmental standards in Scotland are often lower than those at home. 


Their salmon reaches the supermarkets under names that emphasise supposed Highland origins. Marks and Spencer salmon, for example, carries the brand name Lochmuir. Loch Muir does not exist. Loch Duart Salmon, a comparatively small, British-owned producer, does at least take its name from a genuine (and rather beautiful) geographical feature. When I visited one of its farms, it seemed alive to the industry’s environmental image problems. Loch Duart is a top-end producer, supplying expensive restaurants. It keeps fewer fish in each cage and allows longer periods than many for the pens to lie fallow between use. In a hatchery onshore it was rearing lumpfish, which feed on the lice. Elsewhere were tanks of wrasse, a species even lower down the index of sexy fish, but which are “cleaner fish” that eat the lice. 

 Yet even Loch Duart uses chemicals (though it prefers to call them “medicines”) on its fish. The latest report from the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation showed Loch Duart farms in the north-west Highlands to have the highest adult female sea lice infestations in March in Scotland. The company says it was an unexpected spike, and that its new, non-chemical, approach using “cleaner fish” has ensured that all its farms are below industry chemical-treatment trigger levels. There are two very obvious solutions, if people wish to continue eating farmed salmon. One is to locate the cages in deeper water with stronger currents, much further offshore. It would be inconvenient for the industry, but it might stop pollution by lice and chemicals. 

The more radical solution is for salmon farming to be in tanks on land, with arrangements for waste disposal. Geography, though, is an insuperable problem. Salmon farming has political appeal because it seems to offer employment in these Highland communities that have a powerful romantic hold over Scottish identity. Once you use land-based systems, with manufactured salt water, why locate them in the Highlands at all? It could be much more economical to build them somewhere near the markets of southern England or the airports supplying export destinations. Would you buy Loch Hounslow salmon?