Environmental group seeks injunction to halt freshwater extraction for farmed fish

Fish given emergency ‘bath’ to treat for disease

An injunction has been applied for by Friends of the Irish Environment to stop a fish farm company from extracting water from a Connemara lake. Photograph: Chris Maddaloni/Collins

A High Court injunction to stop a fish farm company from extracting water from a Connemara lake has been applied for by Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE).

The environmental group has sought the injunction under section 160 of the Planning and Development Act as it says Galway County Council has taken "no action" to halt the extraction.

Marine Harvest Ireland has been sourcing water from Loch an Ór in south Connemara to treat salmon affected by amoebic gill disease in Kilkieran Bay. The disease is caused by microscopic amoeba-type organisms which bloom in the sea in warmer summer weather. The company says that the most effective and natural method for removing the amoeba from the gills is to immerse the fish in pure fresh water which kills the amoeba by osmosis.

‘Emergency response’

It says that in an “emergency response” to an outbreak of the condition in its Kilkieran Bay stocks, it sourced water from Loch an Ór, which was pumped to a well-boat.


“Affected salmon were then allowed a three hour life-saving swim in well-boat’s fresh water,” the company says.

“The emergency response was carried out without full compliance with regulatory planning approvals in order to save the lives of the salmon,” it has acknowledged.

It says it submitted an application on July 24th for temporary planning permission for installation and retention of the water delivery pipe.

‘No impact on water’

However, it says there was no impact on the water supply for the local population and no adverse environmental impact. Loch an Ór feeds the Carna regional water supply scheme in south Connemara.

FIE says that the application to the local authority is “invalid”, as it says that retention cannot be sought when a development requires assessment under European law.

"Marine Harvest is gaming the system," FIE director Tony Lowes said.

“We believe they have support from the highest levels and that neither the county council nor Irish Water will take any action against this multinational, in spite of the threat to public water supplies in the area due to this extraction.”

Marine Harvest Ireland said yesterday it was “disappointed that a lobby group opposed to fish farming has sought a High Court injunction”. “Not only will the injunction deny basic animal welfare by preventing the necessary live-saving fresh water treatment of farm fish stock, but it will confirm a death sentence on €20 million of salmon, threaten the 60 direct jobs and 40 downstream jobs associated with it, and damage Ireland’s reputation as a location for offshore fish farming,” the company said in a statement.

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins

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