Fishery body's sea lice claim disputed

Tue, Feb 5, 2013, 00:00

Fishing and tourism interests have disputed Bord Iascaigh Mhara’s (BIM) claim that sea lice are not a significant factor in the deaths of wild Atlantic salmon.

In support of its plan for one of Europe’s largest salmon farms to be located in a 456 hectare site in Galway Bay, BIM said there was “no evidence to support the contention that salmon farming causes any environmental damage”.

It also claimed that commentary from the Marine Institute showed sea lice amounted to 1 per cent of deaths in “absolute” terms among wild Atlantic salmon.

Salmon smolts

Tony Lowes of Friends of the Irish Environment said BIM was relying on a study that found the level of sea lice mortality from fish farms was just 1 per cent of overall mortality of salmon smolts.

But he said the overall survival rate of the salmon smolts “is between 5 and 10 per cent at the best of times. Everything wants to eat them,” he said.

What mattered was that “of the 5 to 10 per cent that should be returning, tests show that 40 per cent of these are not”.

Mr Lowes said the original research quoted by BIM and the institute had acknowledged this point.

In a letter to this newspaper last week, BIM chief executive Jason Whooley said there was “no evidence to support the contention that salmon farming causes any environmental damage”.