Activists complain about aquaculture appeals board


A COMPLAINT about alleged lack of information and transparency on decisions regarding fish-farming matters has been made to the Minister for the Marine.

In a letter to Simon Coveney, Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) notes that the website of the Aquaculture Licences Appeals Board appears to have ceased operating in 2006, showing an out-of-date list of board members and no reports of more recent decisions.

“Modern EU legislation requires ‘active and systematic dissemination’ of environmental information held by public bodies, ‘in particular by means of computer telecommunication and/or electronic technology’,” FIE said.

Last week, an appeal by FIE, local residents, fishermen and marine associations overturned Mr Coveney’s decision last December to approve plans – dating from 2005 – for a mussel farm in Dunmanus Bay, Co Cork.

FIE director Caroline Lewis said the decision meant that a proposed expansion of fish-farming in Bantry Bay “must also now be refused on the same rounds”. However, she said FIE had been unable to see the inspector’s report on the Dunmanus Bay case.

“The board’s telephone appears to be on permanent answering machine, messages are left unanswered and our emails ignored.”

Ms Lewis noted that An Bord Pleanála, by contrast, “provides a full and transparent website to assist individuals and groups by publicising every decision and report and providing a search engine to facilitate public participation”.

Given that the Galway Bay fish farm – planned by Bord Iascaigh Mhara – would “exceed the current national production” of aquaculture and was likely to be approved by the Minister, the appeals process would be “the only place for meaningful intervention”.