Salmon lice warning

 

‘THERE has been a sustained reduction in the level of egg-bearing lice on farms in springtime,” according to the Minister of State for Fisheries, Sean Connick. He warned, however, that “pest control will always remain a challenge requiring active management”.

The Minister was launching a report of the National Implementation Group (NIG) established in 2008 to put into practice a strategy for improved pest control on Irish salmon farms.

According to NIG, the vast majority of sites maintained lice levels below treatment trigger levels and, in all instances when notices to treat were issued, effective treatment plans were put into practice. Arising from these results, a series of recommendations including treatments, disease monitoring and management practices, are contained in the report.

Responding to the statement, Salmon Watch Ireland (SWI) says the real issue is the harm done to wild salmonids by inadequately regulated salmon farming. The environmental impact is virtually uncontrolled, with sea lice concentrations having a lethal impact on juvenile salmon and sea trout migrating in late spring.

“The reality is that the regulation of the salmon farming industry is a shambles and does no credit to any of the political, administrative and technical public servants responsible for implementing an effective regime for its management,” SWI says.

There is no comment in the NIG report, according to SWI, that the Irish authorities are being vigorously pursued by the EU Commission to bring the management of salmon farms into conformity with EU Habitats Directive protections for wild salmon, on foot of a complaint lodged by SWI in 2009.

“Inspections carried out in the Galway/Mayo area during the critical spring period in 2010 found that in 61 per cent of cases, sea lice levels exceeded those that trigger a requirement for treatment. Over the year, 53 per cent inspections detected excessive sea lice levels.”

It is noteworthy, according to SWI, that membership of NIG is confined to those concerned with the production of farmed salmon. There are no members drawn from the State or private sectors who have a role in wild salmonid development.

Consequently, neither the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources nor Inland Fisheries Ireland have any say in the formulation or evaluation of measures to combat sea lice or mitigate other negative environmental impacts of the salmon farming industry.

“The history of the past 30 years of salmon farming regulation in Ireland suggests that this exclusion is not an accident,” according to SWI. For further information, contact Simon Ashe (087-9962424) or Niall Greene (086-8269222).

Crowds gathered over the Christmas and New Year period at Annacotty Weir on the Mulkear River in the lower Shannon area to watch large numbers of Atlantic salmon running the weir. Those present expressed delight at the phenonemon, one saying it was the most dramatic late run of salmon in 20 years.

Up to 120 fish per hour were recorded attempting to jump the weir and move upstream to begin spawning throughout the catchment. Mulkear Life staff said the fish were taking advantage of changes in river water levels following the significant thaw which set in after Christmas.

The Mulkear Life project is a new €1.75 million EC-funded Life nature project working on restoration of the lower Shannon Special Area of Conservation for Atlantic salmon, sea lamprey and European otter.

Further details available at www.mulkearlife.com

angling@irishtimes.com