Friday, 24 February 2017

Council risks EU fines for not building 'fish path' to aid migrating salmon at River Blackwater

Wednesday, February 22, 2017 Irish Examiner

Hefty EU fines could be imposed on Cork County Council which hasn’t the money to build a ‘fish path’ for migrating salmon. A hands-on approach to dealing with migrating salmon may be needed again this year it is feared. The salmon need help getting over a weir because the fish path has been destroyed.

It’s estimated it will cost in the region of €2m to purchase land and build a new fish path at the River Blackwater weir in Fermoy town.

The council is writing to the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources seeking the €2m needed.

It also has to cap the weir and put in protective boulders to prevent it from again being damaged by trees which were swept downriver in previous floods. The council has enough money to do that, but not buy land and install the fish path.

The issue was raised at a meeting of the council’s Northern Division in Mallow by Fermoy-based Cllr Noel McCarthy. He said last October people, waded into the river to physically pick up salmon and take them to the upstream side of the weir.

Cllr McCarthy said it was believed that fish which weren’t picked up died: “I’ve met several people who are very concerned that this will happen again this year. We need to speed up the process and make sure there are no more delays in getting this work done. It’s totally unacceptable.” “We were told at one stage that we could face fines from the EU if this work isn’t done. We were also told originally that Lagan (contractors) would do the work as part the flood relief scheme,” said Cllr Frank O’Flynn who added that he knows a landowner who is anxious to sell the land needed for the fish path.

Council officials said they are in negotiation with a landowner and their legal department is progressing the transfer. However, they admit that they don’t have the money to pay for this part of the project and are in behind the scenes negotiations with the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.

“The structure of the weir is compromised. Capping must be done and their funding in place for that. This work could be progressed in the coming year,” one council official said. It had been hoped that capping would be undertaken in conjunction with the building of the fish path.

But assistant county manager James Fogarty said this couldn’t happen.

Councillors then agreed to write to the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources asking it to immediately release the €2m for the project.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Southern Star Newspaper: Salmon farm of 1m fish ‘will devastate’ Bantry


THE oral hearing into an application for a salmon farm containing 1 million fish, at Shot Head in Bantry Bay, was adjourned last week when a 102-page document emerged, that had not been seen by all the interested parties.

A document commissioned by Marine Harvest Ireland outlining sea lice distribution in Bantry Bay, which was submitted to the Aquaculture Licences Appeal Board (ALAB), was not circulated to all the appellants and therefore the chair of the oral hearing, Dr Owen McIntyre, adjourned the meeting for four to five weeks.

The decision came after two days of evidence in Bantry.

‘Nobody wants this salmon farm here,’ Breda O’Sullivan, representing her community of Roosk, told the board. ‘Not one resident of our community was approached by Marine Harvest in connection with this salmon farm. We have a very important tourist industry in our area, most of our community depends on the income that holiday rentals provide, and having such a salmon farm just out there in the bay, not far from our shore, would have a devastating effect on our community,’ she said.

The Beara Peninsula Residents’ Group was just one of 14 appellants who made presentations to ALAB in Bantry this week.

In its application, first lodged five years ago, Marine Harvest Ireland outlined its plans to develop an additional 18 salmon cages off Shot Head. The new salmon farm and the 18 cages, which will each contain up to 60,000 fish, is expected to produce up to 3,500 tonnes of salmon every two years.

Local fishermen were represented at the oral hearing by Kieran O’Shea, whose family have fished the waters around Shot Head for three generations.

He outlined what a disastrous effect he believed a salmon farm would have, not only his livelihood, but on the many other boats and families who have always relied on the crab, prawn and lobster fishing off Shot Head.

‘This will affect the inshore fishing industry in Bantry Bay,’ Mr O’Shea said. ‘For too long inshore fisherman have been ignored, at no time were the fishermen consulted by either the Department of the Marine, nor by the company planning to put the site here. We will be denied access to fishing grounds that we have fished for generations. From an economic, social and environmental standpoint, it makes little sense. There are four other families working the area and while we’re not in the area, all year round, the salmon farm will create unnecessary pressure in the area.’

Speaking on behalf of the Save Bantry Bay group, Peter Sweetman said that a licence for the farm would have a devastating effect on Bantry Bay, both in terms of local jobs, fishing stocks and other wildlife across the area. ‘This whole process is fundamentally flawed under European legislation. We should never have had to request all the relevant documents be sent to us in the first place, and now we learn there is a 102-page submission that we – and all the other appellants – know nothing about.

‘Until we have had a chance to examine these documents, we cannot continue with this appeals hearing,’ Mr Sweetman said.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Irish Examiner: Bantry Bay fish farm oral hearing: Fears over jobs, pesticides, and threat of disease in fish population by Noel Baker Irish Examiner
Wednesday, February 15, 2017

A hearing into objections against the granting of a licence for a salmon farm in Bantry Bay has heard that, were the development to go ahead, it could prove a “tipping point” for local families who have fished the area for generations.

The two-day hearing into the granting of the licence to Marine Harvest heard from a number of the 14 appellants and from the company itself, which was appealing on different grounds.
Signs declaring opposition to the project were placed outside the Westlodge Hotel. Inside, Dr Owen McIntyre, chairman of the oral hearing which is operating under the Aquaculture Licences Appeal Board (ALAB), heard specific concerns.
Environmentalist Peter Sweetman of Save Bantry Bay said the oral hearing was itself flawed as it was ruling out hearing new scientific evidence published since the original appeals were lodged and that it was not adhering to a European directive on including such evidence.
Solicitor Alan Doyle for An Taisce said the Board had no power to limit the scope of the oral hearing. He said An Taisce had not been notified of the appeals and claimed: “The public is effectively being shut out of the oral hearing process.”
Some other appellants made submissions under protest. Kieran O’Shea said he was a third-generation fisherman in the Shot Head area where the development would be located. He said six onshore fishermen operate out of three boats in the area, fishing for prawns, crab, and lobster, adding the area in question accounted for 15% of annual fishing grounds.
“Were we to lose these fishing grounds it could be a tipping point,” he said, referring to local jobs and the viability of business. He also referred to concerns over the use of pesticides and limited access to areas close to the salmon farm were it allowed to proceed, and the threat of disease in the fish population.
“To make matters worse for us, Marine Harvest is now requesting an increase in the size of the salmon farm from 12 to 18 cages,” he said. “We are at serious risk, as are other boats in the area.”
Paddy Gargan of Inland Fisheries Ireland said IFI believed the environmental impact statement in the granting of the licence was “inadequate” regarding sea lice and escaped farmed salmon. He said there was a lot of international literature on this topic that had not been addressed. He said there was “clear potential” for escapes in Bantry Bay and referred to a previous escape in 2014 involving 230,000 fish.
Mr Sweetman asked department officials for the report conducted into that fish escape. In response, John Quinlan of the department said there were matters before court and it would be inappropriate to comment. Mr Sweetman said a judgement was due on March 10 and there was no reason for it to be suppressed, but Mr Quinlan said the case had nothing to do with Marine Harvest and the department was awaiting the judgement in the case before commenting.
Dr Jervis Good of the National Parks and Wildlife Service quoted from a number of different studies suggesting there was a significant population of fresh water pearl mussel in the catchment of the Dromagowlane River and that a reduced fish population could have an effect on it.
He said it could be possible that the site chosen for the proposed development could be designated as a national heritage area in the future.
Local resident Breda O’Sullivan raised concerns for the community, particularly considering the number of tourists who visit it and the number of foreign people who have moved there in recent times.
Tony Lowes of Friends of the Irish Environment said there was a clear conflict of interest in the issuing of licences as the regulatory and development arms of the department were interlinked, while Mark Boyden of the Coomhola Salmon and Trout Anglers Association said the production target of 3,000 tonnes per annum was the equivalent in human terms of an additional population of 60,000 people.
He warned the presence of such a large fish farm could lead to the collapse of wild neighbouring stock and that best international practice indicated farmed salmon be reared in isolation.
The oral hearing continues today.