Up to 230,000 farmed fish lost in February storm

Mooring system and several cages at farm in Bantry Bay buckled under impact of swell

Up to 230,000 farmed salmon may have been lost off the west


coast in one of the nine recent Atlantic



The estimate by the Marine Institute and engineers from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine follows a survey of the site run by Murphy's Irish Seafood Ltd at Gearhies in Bantry Bay, Co Cork.

The storm on February 1st damaged the farm’s mooring system and several cages buckled under the impact of the swell.

The weather was so bad that a site inspection did not take place until February 18th.

The Irish Farmers’ Association’s (IFA) aquaculture division says that most of the caged salmon were suffocated in the crush. However, a group opposed to fish farm expansion in west Cork’s Bantry Bay claims it is Ireland’s “largest single salmon farm escape in history”.

The department said it could not comment on the outcome, but said the inspection took place “at the first available opportunity, as soon as weather conditions permitted”.

“The results of this preliminary examination suggest that the total number of salmon held on site in three cages immediately prior to the recent storm was in the order of 250,000,” it said yesterday.

“The number of live fish remaining after the storm event was in the order of 20,000.”

Dead fish
The Save Bantry Bay group claimed that no dead fish were retrieved in the survey, although it is a legal requirement that all mortalities are disposed of.

The group said it believed the event posed a “significant genetic risk to our native brood stock”.

However, IFA aquaculture chief executive Richie Flynn said the storm was so ferocious that there was nothing to retrieve.

“Every effort is made by our industry on an ongoing basis to minimise escapes but absolutely nothing could have prepared the country for the greatest meteorological battering on record.”

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins is the former western and marine correspondent of The Irish Times