Sir, – While Teresa Morrissey is accurate in declaring that there are almost 2,000 direct jobs in Ireland’s aquaculture industry, Bord Iascaigh Mhara’s latest figures report that just 209 people (as measured by full-time equivalents) are employed directly in salmon farming (“Salmon farms provide essential jobs”, Letters, February 2nd).
Salmon farming, as currently practised in Ireland, is environmentally unsustainable. Evidence published in numerous independent peer-reviewed research papers shows that it has brought wild salmon and sea-trout stocks to precipitously low levels. Many other countries’ governments now accept the scientific evidence and have moved to suspend open-sea salmon farming. Some, including Norway and Iceland, have encouraged and supported the industry to use closed containment systems. An equivalent transition to closed or substantially closed systems of production in Ireland would better protect farmed fish, respect the fragile near-shore environment and give wild salmon and sea trout stocks a fair chance to recover their numbers. Such a move would take time, but Ireland need not be a laggard to other countries in trialling new production methods. The State could and should play its part by offering incentivises to the industry which would also have the benefit of preserving and enhancing Ireland’s commitment to the development of a sustainable agri-food sector. For this to happen, however, requires one other fundamental change. As matters stand, the governance of the aquaculture industry in Ireland is complicated by a deep-seated conflict arising from the Department of Agriculture, Food, and the Marine’s dual role for being responsible for the development and regulation of the industry. A new aquaculture authority responsible for setting standards, licensing, regulation, and enforcement needs to be established independent of the Department of Agriculture, Food, and the Marine. – Yours, etc,