Controversy over fish farm
Sir, – According to Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), Ireland is uniquely blessed among the salmon farming nations of the earth – sea lice infestations generated by Irish salmon farms apparently have no impact on migrating juvenile wild salmonids (Business, March 4th).
BIM apparently knows something that has escaped the governments of Canada, Norway, Scotland and even Ireland itself which all have active programmes of research into the phenomenon and how it might be controlled or, better still, eliminated. The Norwegians are so worried about the impacts of farm-generated sea lice and escapes of farmed fish that they have for a number of years now had a moratorium on any further expansion of their salmon farming industry.
BIM bases its position about sea lice on highly tendentious interpretations of just three scientific papers (all three of which they have contended at one time or another to have been published by the Marine Institute, notwithstanding the fact they were published in learned journals by individual scientists). It has ignored the truckload of other published material on the subject of salmon farm generated sea lice and wild salmonids, virtually all of which comes to more or less the same conclusion – that badly sited and poorly regulated and managed salmon farms constitute a serious threat to juvenile salmon and sea trout migrating to their feeding grounds.
It has also consistently either ignored or, on occasions, rubbished the warning signals raised by another State agency, Inland Fisheries Ireland.
Provided that it has the legal basis for doing so it is, of course, fully entitled to apply for an aquaculture licence and to promote its project. As an executive arm of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, accountable to a Minister and ultimately to the Oireachtas, it is not, however, entitled to engage in behaviour designed to mislead both the Minister responsible for issuing the licence and the public as to the potential collateral damage which its project may cause.
As things stand, this case is heading for a long drawn out legal contest in the High Court and possibly even in the European Court of Justice. This will take years and cost the taxpayer and the non-governmental organisations opposing the project a small fortune in legal costs. Would all interests not be better served by the Minister subjecting the entire project to a thoroughgoing independent, transparent analysis of the BIM environmental impact statement, the substantive case it purports to make and the extent to which it conforms with domestic and EU law? – Yours, etc,