Labour TD seeks rejection of Galway Bay fish farm application

Galway West TD Derek Nolan claims 15,000-tonne ‘organic’ project too risky

Minister for Marine Simon Coveney has come under increased pressure to refuse a licence for the proposed 15,000-tonne "organic" fish farm in Galway Bay, with Labour Party Galway West TD Derek Nolan declaring yesterday that the project "carries too many risks".

Mr Nolan said he had "always had concerns", but had refrained from commenting publicly to allow Mr Coveney time to review the application by Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM).

“However,new information coming to light this year showed that hundreds of thousands of farmed salmon escaped from a farm in Bantry bay and were unaccounted for,”Mr Nolan said in a statement.

“I feel there is now too much evidence showing the negative impact this salmon farm could have on Galway Bay,” he said.


Earlier this week, Taoiseach Enda Kenny defended his decision to meet Norwegian fish farm multinational Marine Harvest with Mr Coveney earlier this year.

Marine Harvest has been tipped as one of the potential operators of the Galway project, if approved.

Minutes of the meeting at Government Buildings on January 30th of this year, which were obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the Galway Bay Against Salmon Cages group, record that it was held to discuss “licensing and industry development issues associated with the company’s operation in Ireland”.

Independent Galway county councillor Tom Welby claimed the minutes showed Mr Kenny was "in the pocket of a multinational".

Mr Kenny is recorded as stating that specific licence applications, such as that for the company's plan for a salmon farm in west Cork, could not be discussed in detail "in view of the statutory basis of the assessment process", and said the Government was "fully supportive" of the company's operations in Ireland.

The minutes record the Taoiseach would be “willing to meet” again in six months to “review the situation”.

In a response, a spokesman for Mr Kenny said the Government had “ambitious plans to expand our seafood sector as part of our Food Harvest 2020 strategy”.

“As Marine Harvest is a world leader in this area, the Taoiseach, Minister Coveney and Government officials met with the company to discuss the evolution of the industry in Ireland,” it said, and Mr Kenny had not meet the company since.

Meanwhile, a decision by the European Commission to close an investigation into the potential impact of sea lice on wild salmon stocks in Ireland has been welcomed by BIM, which said it effectively meant the State had "no case to answer".

Salmon Watch Ireland spokesman Niall Greene said the EU decision was based on "information provided by the Irish authorities".

“Being the best of a very bad lot of jurisdictions... is no commendation of Irish practices ,” Mr Greene said.

Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) said the closure letter from the European Commission “states that the wider infringement case against Ireland arising from the adverse judgment of the Court of Justice in 2007 remains open and ‘the debate is not closed’ ”.

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins

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