Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Creed appoints independent Aquaculture Licensing Review Group

Pictured L to R: Lorcan Ó Cinnéide, CEO of the Irish Fish Processors & Exporters Association, Mary Moylan, Chair of the Review Group, Michael Creed, Minister For Agriculture, Food and the Marine and Ken Whelan PhD, Adjunct professor in the School of Biology and Environmental Science at UCD
21 Dec 2016 - West Cork Times
THE Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed T.D. today announced the appointment of an independent Aquaculture Licensing Review Group to review the process of licensing for aquaculture and its associated legal framework in keeping with actions identified in Food Wise 2025 and Ireland’s National Strategic Plan for Sustainable Aquaculture Development.
On the need for a review of the existing licensing process Minister Creed said “Our aquaculture sector has enormous potential to sustainably grow its production of seafood to meet the opportunities presented from growing world demand for safe, sustainable seafood.  Ireland’s National Strategic Plan for Sustainable Aquaculture Development aims to sustainably grow our production across all species by 45,000 tonnes.” 
The Minister continued “To achieve that ambition, we need to revamp our aquaculture licensing process and its associated legal frameworks, so that an operator can have a decision on an aquaculture licence application within timeframes that compare favourably to our competitors.  But any changes must ensure that all stakeholders can participate in a transparent licensing process and have confidence that any licensing decision complies with all EU and national legal requirements and protects our oceans for future generations.” 
Both Food Wise 2025 and the National Strategic Plan identified issues with the current licensing system and recommended an independent review to examine the existing challenges and propose improvements in line with best-practice internationally.
Welcoming the Review Group, Minister Creed acknowledged the appropriate skills and experience that the members bring: “I am pleased to announce today the formation of an Independent Review Group comprising 3 persons who I am confident will be widely accepted as having the skills, experience and integrity to conduct this independent review in a manner that all stakeholders can support.  I would like to thank Mary Moylan, Ken Whelan and Lorcán Ó Cinnéide for agreeing to serve on the Review Group and I look forward to their recommendations on what we need to change to give this sector a reliable, sustainable, effective decision-making foundation so that we can harness its full potential.

Monday, 12 December 2016

Why I would never eat farmed salmon by Paolo Tullio

Well, let me put my oar in straight away. I wouldn't eat farmed salmon if you paid me. Why? Well, the taste for starters, plus everything I've read about it over the last few years. But let's start at the beginning ...

The Irish attitude to fish is a curious one. Here we are, an island nation surrounded by the Atlantic, and we take little pleasure in the fruits of the sea. Elsewhere in Europe, fish is seen as a treat; in Italy it costs more than meat. If you really want to impress Italians, give them a meal composed of fish.
Why fish should be held in such low esteem here is a mystery. Could it be a remnant of penitential fish on Fridays? Hard to know, but this much is clear from nutritional experts - eating fish is good for you.

Here's an example: according to a Harvard University study in Environmental Health Perspectives, pregnant women who ate more than two servings of low-mercury fish per week had children with IQ scores an average of four points higher with each extra serving of fish per week.
However, mothers who ate high mercury fish gave birth to children whose IQ scores average 7.5 points lower with each extra serving of fish. So if you want to increase the brain power of your unborn child, you need to eat fish. But it needs to be fish with low levels of mercury, like wild sea bass, anchovies, herring, mackerel and wild salmon. Mercury is a profoundly toxic element which has the habit of collecting in the livers and body fats of organisms that ingest it.

But mercury isn't the only contaminant that you can find in fish. Polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, are a group of 400 or so chlorine compounds that do not appear naturally in nature, but are found increasingly in the oceans as a result of industrial pollution. PCBs are carcinogenic and are found to some degree in all fish.

In January 2004, a report in Science journal started a food scare. Researchers tested about 700 salmon - wild and farmed - for PCBs, dioxin, toxaphene and dieldrin.

Farmed salmon had seven times higher levels of these contaminants, and European farmed salmon had higher levels than American farmed salmon. A study by our Food Safety Authority (FSAI) found Irish farmed salmon contains two-and-half times more dioxin than wild salmon and more than four times the amount of PCBs than wild salmon.
The various reports on toxins in fish were the basis of the advice from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that you should eat farmed salmon no more than once a month.

This is based on their view of risk assessment, which is that a tolerable level of cancer is one in 10,000. This makes the EPA advice more conservative than the FSAI, which doesn't on balance consider farmed salmon a risk to health.
So the scientists are not unanimous on the health aspects of farmed salmon, but there are other issues that need addressing. Not long ago salmon was becoming rare and expensive as wild stocks were over-fished. Then came the salmon farms and now salmon outsells all other fish in Ireland. It's cheap, readily available and still carries the cachet of a noble fish. But let's look carefully at farmed salmon. Farmed salmon are similar to battery hens. They're bred and raised in overcrowded conditions, they get no exercise and therefore contain more fat, and they get more antibiotics per pound of body weight than any other food animal.

Because the salmon's natural diet includes krill -- small crustaceans -- their flesh is pink. Farmed salmon get colourants in their feed instead to give their flesh a pink colour.
If you're concerned about the conservation of our natural resources, consider this. Farmed fish are fed on fish meal. This meal is made from wild fish, but you can't get one ton of meal from one ton of wild fish, you need much more. And then, one ton of meal doesn't produce one ton of salmon, but a lot less.

So when you combine these together, you need a lot of wild fish to produce one ton of wild salmon. Some estimates put it as high as six ton of wild fish to produce one ton of farmed salmon. Left in the wild, those fish could have fed many salmon. Instead, we're depleting the wild stocks to create less farmed fish.
Ocean ecosystems have a great capacity to recover from over-fishing, but the ocean's fisheries are in a serious state of decline. A study of human impact on marine biodiversity published by Science in 2006 concluded that by 2048 all species of wild seafood could collapse, their numbers declining to a 10th of historic highs.

Because salmon is farmed in such large numbers and in enclosed spaces, it becomes ready prey for parasites. Farmed salmon can have thousands of times the amount of lice that wild ones do, so the fish are doused with chemicals.
Fish excrement and chemical residues fill the bays beneath the cages, damaging the marine environment, polluting shell-fish beds and spreading disease up the food chain.

I'd suggest to you that the taste of a flabby, lice-infested, unnaturally fed farmed salmon is nowhere near as good as the taste of a wild fish. I see nothing wrong with returning to a state where salmon is rare and expensive. It should be an occasional treat, not a daily staple. Wild salmon is free of antibiotics, pesticides and synthetic colouring agents. It's much higher in the essential omega-3 oils, so it's good for heart and brain.

You don't need to eat farmed salmon for health reasons then: oily fish high in omega-3 is available, such as mackerel and herring. They're not endangered, not farmed, they're cheap and they're good.
Beware the marketeers and their sales pitches. Because farmed salmon is meeting some consumer resistance, the name is changing -- 'ocean raised' is another name for farmed fish.

And if you think 'organic' salmon is somehow different, it isn't. It's a farmed fish and apart from a different diet, it's farmed in the same way.

The only truly organic salmon is a wild one.

Monday, 7 November 2016

Herald Scotland: Oops: fish farm firm kills 175,000 of its salmon by accident

ONE of the world’s largest fish farming companies has accidentally killed more than 175,000 of its caged salmon in Scotland while trying to treat them for lice and disease, according to internal Government memos.

Blunders by Norwegian multinational, Marine Harvest, have cost millions of pounds and led to over 600 tonnes of salmon having to be incinerated. The losses have contributed to a 16 per cent drop in the company’s Scottish salmon production.

Campaigners have accused Marine Harvest of treating salmon cruelly, and warn that lice and diseases are “choking the Scottish salmon farming industry to death”. They mock plans to double the size of the industry by 2030 as “sheer lunacy”.

The worst incident took place in July and August on a salmon farm in Loch Greshornish on the Isle of Skye. Some 95,400 fish were killed by a new device called a thermolicer, which is designed to rid salmon of the sea lice that plague them.

But the way it does this – by suddenly immersing fish in water much warmer than they are used to – can also kill the fish themselves. What happened on Skye was explained in a memo on 12 September from Government officials to the Rural Economy Minister, Fergus Ewing.

The “sudden temperature change” caused by the thermolicer killed 95 per cent of the lice but also caused “significant mortalities” amongst the salmon, it said. Officials estimated that the losses cost Marine Harvest over £2.7 million.

“This report highlights the ongoing difficulties and costs faced by industry with regards to sea lice management,” concluded the memo, which was released under freedom of information law.

Another 20,000 salmon were killed at Loch Greshornish fish farm by other attempts to rid them of sea lice using chemicals. There are concerns that lice are becoming increasingly resistant to chemical treatment.

In a second memo to Ewing on September 26, officials revealed more inadvertent deaths, this time at a Marine Harvest fish farm in Soay Sound off the Isle of Harris. Earlier that month 60,000 salmon had been killed by hydrogen peroxide used to treat them for amoebic gill disease.

In the last few months Marine Harvest fish farms in the Hebrides and Wester Ross have suffered a series of outbreaks of gill disease. Hundreds of thousands of dead fish have reportedly been transported to Wigan, near Manchester, to be incinerated.

According to the company’s latest quarterly report to investors, its production of salmon in Scotland has dropped by 16 per cent since last year. Costs increased due to “incident based mortality” that was “mainly related to gill disease and sea-lice treatment losses”, the report said.

On October 28, the fish farming industry launched a plan to double its business from £1.8 billion this year to £3.6bn by 2030. The plan was backed by Ewing, who promised to set up an “industry leadership group”.

But the ambition has been derided by anti-fish farm campaigners. “With lice infestation and gill diseases already plaguing salmon farming, this is sheer lunacy,” said Don Staniford, director of the Global Alliance Against Industrial Aquaculture.

It was Staniford who obtained the Government memos revealing the accidental deaths. “That Marine Harvest is desperate enough to resort to a decidedly dodgy thermolicer shows how deep-rooted the industry’s disease problems are,” he said.

The animal welfare group, Compassion in World Farming, described the thermolicer as “a very brutal form of treatment which clearly causes distress and suffering to the fish”. It currently opposes its commercial use.

“Killing fish by overheating, whether accidental or not, is simply inhumane,” said the group’s chief executive, Philip Lymbery, “All current forms of treating sea lice entail problems.”

The Green MSP, Mark Ruskell, has lodged a parliamentary question asking for a list of fish farming incidents over the last two years. He questioned whether the industry could double production “without disastrous consequences.”

Marine Harvest pointed out that the salmon killed in the “unfortunate” thermolicer incident had been weakened by gill disease. “We regret any loss of fish and are always mindful of the welfare of the fish and aim to continuously improve our methods to address changing environmental circumstances,” said the company’s manager Steve Bracken.

“We have been dealing with a number of challenges in relation to fish health,” he added. “We have also faced challenges with amoebic gill disease which is increasing in this part of the world as a result of climate change.”

According to the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation, “unexpected incidents” can happen with new treatment technology. “Any growth will be achieved responsibly and sustainably,” said chief executive Scott Landsburgh.

The Scottish Government welcomed new ways of dealing with sea lice that avoided the use of medicines. “Industry is undertaking research with a number of partners to improve the effectiveness of these innovative treatments and enhance their reliability so that they do not cause accidental killing of fish,” said a spokesperson.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Campaigners Fear ‘Back Door’ Salmon Farming Via Galway Bay Test Site

#FishFarm - Could proposals for the Galway Bay Marine and Renewable Energy Test Site provide a back door for fish farming in the bay?
That’s the concern of local campaigners after a Statutory Instrument was enacted earlier this month that changes the licensing laws for salmon farming for research purposes, as the Connacht Tribune reports.
The new law allows for salmon farms under 50 tonnes to operate without an Environmental Impact Assessment – one of the issues before the withdrawl last year of controversial plans for what would have been one of the largest aquaculture projects in Europe off the Aran Islands.
According to Billy Smyth, chair of campaign group Galway Bay Against Salmon Cages, the move confirms suspicions that the Marine Institute test site off Spiddal could be used for fish farming.
“Let the Marine Institute just ask the Norwegians for the results of their research and save money,” he said.
The public consultation on the foreshore lease application for upgrades to the present test siteclosed earlier this month.
But contributions are still being sought on a new strategy for coastal communities with fishing and fish farming interests under the FLAG West scheme, following a series of public meetings in Co Galway last week. Galway Bay FM has more HERE.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Scottish Sea Farms starts sea lice device trials

Salmon producer Scottish Sea Farms (SSF) has invested more than £4m in new equipment that uses a chemical-free approach to controlling sea lice.

The Thermolicer is fitted on a boat or a barge and can treat up to 80 tons of fish per hour, according to its manufacturer
Trials of the Thermolicer device are under way in Shetland.
It works by bathing fish briefly in lukewarm water, capitalising on the parasite's low tolerance for sudden changes in temperature.
No chemicals are used and the fish are unharmed in the process, according to SSF.
The Thermolicer, which is made by Norwegian firm Steinsvik, is fitted on a boat or a barge. Each machine can treat up to 80 tons of fish per hour.
The sea louse is a naturally-occurring parasite that is responsible for significant losses to wild and farmed fish stocks.
It can latch on to salmon, eat their skin and blood, and cause infections.

'Sea lice challenge'

SSF said it would share its experiences of using the Thermolicer with other salmon farmers in Scotland.
Ralph Bickerdike, head of fish health for SSF, said: "Sea lice is a challenge for all fish farmers in most salmon-producing areas.
"At Scottish Sea Farms we intend being part of the solution to this challenge.
"Our work with SAIC (Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre) and other industry partners in this area has already reaped huge benefits through our work with wrasse and lumpfish - varieties of cleaner fish.
"The Thermolicer is the latest step in developing alternative tools to maintain a sustainable solution to fish health management."
SAIC chief executive Heather Jones said: "We are delighted to see this level of innovation and collaboration happening in Scotland.
"The industry is tackling the biological issues it faces with energy and initiative, and with a strong commitment to sustainable practices."

Saturday, 2 April 2016

FDA’s approval of GMO salmon: What are the environmental risks?

RT News 2nd April 2016
The FDA has not paid attention to possible negative environmental impact, if genetically modified salmon are released in the wild, Brettny Hardy, Earthjustice told RT’s Anya Parampil.
A coalition of environmental, fishing and consumer groups have filed a suit against the US Food and Drug Administration over its approval of genetically engineered salmon. It is the first such animal to be sold for commercial consumption.
Brettny Hardy is one of the lawyers filing the suit.