Friday, 10 January 2014

Request for ‘redress for maladministration’ filed against Department of Agriculture - Irish Times

An EU inquiry into the prevalence of sea lice around salmon farms and their impact on wild salmon, which was closed in September 2012, is to be reopened.

The reopening of the inquiry follows complaints that information from State agency Inland Fisheries Ireland on the scale of damage caused to wild fish from lice associated with salmon farms, was withheld by the Department of Agriculture.

The EU initially sought information on the scale of the sea lice issue from Ireland as part of a larger EU study as far back as 2009.

Friends of the Irish Environment complained to the EU that a key report from the Inland Fisheries Ireland had been “suppressed” by the Department of Agriculture, which handled Ireland’s response to the Commission.

Friends of the Irish Environment said the Inland Fisheries Ireland report was critical of the effect of salmon farms on the prevalence of sea lice and the failure of Ireland’s programme to control the spread of sea lice.

This evidence was not included in the Department of Agriculture’s final submission in 2011, which preferred other evidence from the Marine Institute.

The Marine Institute claimed wild salmon suffered only a 1 per cent mortality rate from sea lice.

In 2012 the EU closed its investigation.

Friends of the Irish Environment subsequently submitted a complaint for “redress for maladministration” to the Office of the Ombudsman, which launched an investigation. The Friends also complained to the EU and to the EU Ombudsman’s Office.

The Friends said the Department of Agriculture may have a conflict of interest, as it is currently the licensing authority for and promoter of a large scale salmon farm in Galway Bay. The controversial 456 hectare site project ear-marked for the lee of the Aran Islands, is being opposed by a coalition of game anglers.

In addition to the reopening of the initial EU inquiry, the EU Ombudsman’s office has also said it is investigating the events, as is the Ombudsman’s Office in Ireland.

A comment was not immediately available from the Department of Agriculture this morning.

Ireland has until the January 15th to reply to the Commission.

Environmental and angling groups last week launched a Boycott Farmed Salmon for Christmas campaign at the Good Food Ireland awards in Dublin.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Response from Consumer Association of Ireland

Dear Consumer Association, December 13th 2013

We have a huge concern regarding miss labeling of farmed salmon products on Irish supermarket shelves. We believe the consumer is being misled with fancy packaging that displays words such as Organic, Natural Salmon etc...

We believe the word Organic displayed on Farmed Salmon and Smoke salmon is completely wrong and only offers to manipulate customers into buying farmed salmon from supermarket shelves.

What can the Consumer's Association of Ireland do about this problem?

Yours Sincerly,
Ireland Against Salmon Farms

RESPONSE FROM CAI December 16th 2013

Thank you for your email. We currently work very closely with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland in relation to all regulation. Currently we are looking into the definition of ‘Artisan’ which will cover a range of foodstuffs. Specific to farmed salmon, this is being investigated at European level of which we are part of, through our membership of BECU.

Kind regards,

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Calls for Minister Simon Coveney to Resign over Salmon Farm Findings

People across the country are calling for Minister Simon Coveney to immediately step down as Minister for Agriculture amid perceived refusals to answer questions in the Dáil on the fish farm controversy. The proposal by An Bord Iascaigh Mhara to locate the 1,126 acre, 15,000 tonne, open caged salmon fish farm off Inis Óirr, is now halted pending an EU investigation and Minister Coveney now has until January 15 to explain the situation. The Galway Bay Protection Group, a body made up of doctors and medics concerned by the health implications of a fish farm, has welcomed the EU Commission’s decision but believe a public enquiry is also needed to examine the entire issue.

Meanwhile, Save Bantry Bay and Friends of the Irish Environment submitted Freedom of Information request for all documents relating to a previous EU investigation. Upon receipt of the documents it quickly became apparent vital evidence was suppressed, and requests were sent for the European Commission to reopen their investigations.

There is now a calling for Minister Coveney to step down as Minister for Agriculture.

Baffled by enthusiasm of salmon farm endorsement

Great article in the Southern Star dated December 7th 2013

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

9 new cages for Kilkieran Bay and 5 or 6 for Bertraghboy Bay in Connemara plus more to be added

The destruction of Kilkieran Bay and Bertraghboy Bay by our state. Nine new cages for Kilkieran Bay and 5or 6 for Bertraghboy Bay in Connemara and more to be added. You could practically walk to them from the shore and this is an SAC and SPA.

Again economically supported by Udaras na Gaeltachta and now run by a multinational salmon feed lot operator. Replacing salmon farms that never worked and got huge funding from Udaras na Gaeltachta in the past and this is a SPECIAL AREA OF CONSERVATION. It is a total disgrace.

Not much chance for the wild fish of Connemara...


Kilkieran Bay

Bertraghboy Bay

Boycott Farmed Salmon This Christmas

Consumers Beware! Our message for Christmas 2014 is don't buy organic/smoked salmon.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Galway Bay salmon farm halted as EU concerned by ‘Fundamental errors’ in scientific data

Galway Advertiser  November 28, 2013
By Kernan Andrews

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney
A public enquiry could result from allegations of flawed and suppressed information regarding controversial proposal to construct a massive salmon farm in Galway Bay. The allegations have already led the EU Commission to re-open an investigation on the farm and demand explanations from Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney.

EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik re-opened Pilot Investigation 764/09/ENV1 following claims of “fundamental errors” in the analysis of key papers by the Marine Institute in Oranmore regarding the sea lice threat to wild salmon posed by intensive salmon farming; allegations that information from Inland Fisheries Ireland on the scale of damage caused to wild fish from lice was withheld by the Department of Agriculture; and perceived refusals by the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney to answer questions in the Dáil on the fish farm.

The proposal by An Bord Iascaigh Mhara to locate the 1,126 acre, 15,000 tonne, open caged salmon fish farm off Inis Óirr, is now halted pending the EU investigation and Minister Coveney now has until January 15 to explain the situation. The Galway Bay Protection Group, a body made up of doctors and medics concerned by the health implications of a fish farm, has welcomed the EU Commission’s decision but believe a public enquiry is also needed to examine the entire issue. It is seeking to raise funds for the holding of such an enquiry.

‘Fundamental errors’

The main reason Commissioner Potocnik re-opened the investigation is the emergence of new scientific analysis which called into question data that had been presented to the Department of Agriculture.
A team of four international experts from the University of Toronto, the University of Prince Edward, the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, and the Scottish Ocean’s Institute at St Andrews reanalysed the data contained in three Marine Institute reports regarding the impact of sea lice on wild salmon, for the August edition of The Journal Of Fish Diseases.

The team found “fundamental methodological errors” in the all three Marine Institute papers and concluded the percentage of wild salmon killed by sea lice is not “one per cent” as claimed by the Marine Institute, but is actually “more than 30 times higher” - in effect one-third of the overall number of adult salmon. Two of the Marine institute papers form the basis of the Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed fish farm.
On three occasions this matter was raised in Dáil Éireann by Independent Galway West TD Noel Grealish, at the request of the Galway Bay Protection Group, Minister Coveney made no reply, except on once to say the Marine Institute protocols are “strictly evidence based” and “totally independent of the industry”.

In December 2012, Dep Grealish had already pointed to research that showed 39 per cent of wild salmon mortalities are attributable to sea lice. The new data and the Minister’s lack of response led the Galway Bay Protection Group and Friends of the Irish Environment to write to Commissioner Potocnik, leading to the new investigation. The commission has written to Minister Coveney, giving him until January 15 to “comment on the significant difference between the conclusions of the two studies”.

‘Serious Reservations’

Independent MEP Marian Harkin, who has supported the Galway Bay Protection Association and Friends of the Irish Environment on the issue, has welcomed this development. “This decision is a significant indication of how the democratic process can be used by NGOs to challenge possible infringements of process,” she said, “and to work with politicians to ensure there is no preclusion of valid evidence which may influence the decision by the European Commission.” MEP Harkin said allegations that important evidence by a State body appears to have been omitted and, as a consequence, the objectives of other State bodies were achieved, “is most worrying”.

The Dáil Public Accounts Committee is also being called on the investigate the financial outlay, and process employed, by Bord Iascaigh Mhara to promote the construction of the salmon farm by Galway county councillor Thomas Welby.

Cllr Welby had previously written to Minister Coveney in relation to deficiencies in the EIS regarding Amoebic Gill Disease, a disease which has to be treated by bathing the diseased fish in fresh water. The EIS made no reference to the disease, or the treatment, a process that would require huge amounts of fresh water.

Concerns had also been raised about the proposed fish farm earlier in the year. Galway county councillors wrote to Minister Coveney in March outlining “serious reservations” that the farm will “endanger wild salmon stocks and public health”.

In the Dáil that same month, Fine Gael Galway West TD Seán Kyne also called attention to discrepancies between stated figures. “BIM states that 90 per cent of salmon smolts from river catchment travel along the coastline up to the north Atlantic, yet local angling groups and the Inland Fisheries Ireland state that 90 per cent of the same salmon smolts swim deep into Galway Bay,” he said. “Which piece of advice is the correct one?”

Pesticides and salmon farms

The recent discovery of the chemical Teflubenzuron at hundreds of time the legal limit in the environment of a Marine Harvest salmon farm in Scotland highlights the dangers of releasing chemicals uncontrolled into our waters. The old attitude of ‘dilute and disperse’ has in fact wracked havoc with our environment, both in the air and in the seas.

Teflubenzuron is one of the chemicals used to try and control sea lice. These can harm and even lead to mortalities in the farmed salmon. Resistance to chemicals builds and sea lice are regularly recorded at levels where existing protocols require mandatory treatment.

In the wild, salmon return to fresh water to spawn and the lice fall off. Captive in our bays, under farm factory conditions, conditions favour the congregations of sea lice. If there are a million fish on the farm with just 1 egg–bearing louse each, the farm may release 500 million lice larvae. Even infestations at levels below which they affect the caged fish can infect wild salmon at distances of up to 30 kilometres.

Here in Ireland Marine Harvest, the Norwegian owned company that produces 80% of Irish farmed salmon, have stated that they ‘never used this medicine [Teflubenzuron] in our organic fish anywhere in Ireland, including Bantry Bay’. This, in fact, cannot be independently verified as the type, frequency of treatment, and volumes of chemicals used in any Irish salmon farm is not publicly available. The Regulatory Agency does not ‘hold’ this information and the companies (‘every stage of our production process is audited annually by independent bodies’) refuse it on grounds of commercial confidentiality.

We do however have Marine Harvest’s EIS [Environment Impact Statement] for the Bantry Bay proposed expansion. In volume 2 of 3 (Appendices) It lists Teflubenzuron on the ‘Marine Harvest Medicines Positive List‘ to treat sea lice.

Given that the Marine Harvest statement makes the point that Teflubenzuron is not used on ‘organic’ farms, let us look at two of the chemicals that are in fact approved by Marine Harvest for use on organic farms on the ‘Medicine Positive List’ in the EIS. These include Excis (cypermethrin) and AlphaMax (deltamethrin). Refered to in the EIS as ‘medicines’ or ‘chemotheruputants’, these chemicals are in fact ‘biocides’.

Medicines are a ‘drug or other preparation for the treatment or prevention of disease’. A theraputant falls within ‘that branch of medicine concerned with the remedial treatment of disease.’

Biocide is a word coined to match ‘advances’ in science in the 1940s. It is from bio (for ‘life’) and cides (a suffix for ‘the killing of the person or thing)’. Hence ‘pesticides’ and ‘insecticides’. Under the Biocides Directive, they are defined as chemicals used with the ‘intention of destroying, deterring, rendering harmless, preventing the action of, or otherwise exerting a controlling effect on, any harmful organism’. These chemicals come under the Biocides Directive as product type 18 – insecticides – but they do not appear on the Registry of Irish Biocides, as maintained by the Department of Agriculture.

They kill life; medicine saves lives. These chemicals are extremely ecotoxic active neurotoxins. Arthropods, and particularly crustaceans, are highly susceptible. There are known effects on fish and, most sensitive of all, shellfish such as lobsters. Bathers and watersports may also be at risk. For this reason, the manufacturers of both products clearly indicate that there should be no release to environment.

Even the Irish Medicines Board Information Sheets for these chemicals makes it clear that these ‘neurotoxins can only be applied to animals under specific conditions’, stating ‘Do not contaminate natural water with the product’.

In the UK horses can only be treated with cypermethrin if a veterinary certificate is supplied saying that the horse will not be used for human consumption. If the product was classed as a biocide rather than a medicine in Ireland, as it is under the Biocides Directive, its use would not be permitted unless it could be ‘scientifically demonstrated that under relevant field conditions there is no unacceptable effect’. 

According to the Galway Bay EIS (prepared by the applicant, the Government agency Bord Isca Mhara), ‘The volume of chemical used to treat a single pen of salmon [36 pens are proposed] is estimated at 3,333 cubic metres’. For comparison, an Olympic swimming pool holds 2,500 cubic metres. This will be discharged directly into the (once) natural waters of our Bays in spite of the fact that the manufactures do not support direct release of these neurotoxins.

The basic tenet of toxicology is that ‘dose makes the poison’. As the scale of emission increases, so do the risks involved. Exposure of non–target organisms is facilitated by the sheer volumes of chemicals that will be emitted.

To save money, the industry is introducing well boats. Into these floating swimming pools nets of fish, once anaesthetised (Tricaine mesilate, ‘permitted for organic fish’) are immersed in these biocides. After treatment the contents are flushed into the sea, creating massive poisonous plumes without any attempt to formalise the environmental risk assessment within the existing EU legal framework.

All with organic certification.

Tony Lowes

The Village Magazine September 2013

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

European Commission has Reopened an Investigation - Fish News EU

Fish News EU Reports 25 November 2013

THE European Commission has reopened an investigation into salmon farming in Ireland following the revelation that the country's Department for Agriculture, Food and the Marine concealed vital information and relied on bad science when presenting their case.

In 2009 the European Commission investigated the impact of sea lice from salmon farms on wild salmon stocks. They repeatedly requested viewpoints of Inland Fisheries Ireland, the government body responsible for the conservation of wild salmon. IFI prepared a file, but the Department for Agriculture refused to forward it as it stated salmon farming put nearby wild salmon stocks at serious risk.

Instead, the Department of Agriculture presented a case that relied on a single study by the Marine Institute which suggested sea lice from salmon farms pose no problem at all. On the basis of this evidence the case was closed in June 2012.

During this time Bord Iascaigh Mhara was also using this faulty research to promote the massive increase in salmon farming around Ireland's coast.

However, in August the Marine Institute's research was discredited by an international team of experts. The damning critique was published in the Journal of Fish Disease – the world's most authoritative publication of the topic. Little has been heard of this study since, and the Marine Institute has yet to respond.

Meanwhile, Save Bantry Bay and Friends of the Irish Environment submitted Freedom of Information request for all documents relating to the EU investigation. Upon receipt of the documents it quickly became apparent vital evidence was suppressed, and requests were sent for the European Commission to reopen their investigations.

"The Department of Agriculture's history of presenting bad science as fact, and suppressing evidence of the negative impacts of salmon farming has finally caught up with them," said Kieran O'Shea, chairman of Save Bantry Bay.

Alec O'Donovan, secretary of Save Bantry Bay, added: "It is time for Ireland's salmon farming policy and the aquaculture licensing system to be opened to scrutiny. While the European Commission investigations may be confined to the impacts of sea lice, we ask that the Irish Government initiate a full independent review covering all aspects of the national salmon farming agenda."