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