Salmon farms and the environment

 

Sir, – As one of the organisations alluded to but not named in Stephen Collins’s article “What ever happened to the Irish salmon farming industry?” (Opinion & Analysis, December 28th), Galway Bay Against Salmon Cages (GBASC), far from being “a small group”, is supported by the majority of the largest game angling federations in the country, representing tens of thousands of anglers in the 32 counties and is also supported by a number of environmental groups, angling tourists interests, some inshore fishermen and individual members of the public. If we were such a small group, how did we manage to force the Government and Bord Iascaigh Mhara to withdraw in December 2015 the proposal for one of the world’s largest salmon farms in Galway Bay?

Your columnist accuses anti-salmon-farm groups of scaremongering and tarnishing the industry with wildly exaggerated claims and that our objections are scientifically baseless.

All our press releases are based on up-to-date scientific papers that are peer reviewed, and we also use State agency documents as proof of what we are saying.

Your columnist has fallen for the old salmon farm industry story that we will need more and more farmed fish to feed the increasing world population because wild fish are near extinction due to overfishing. However, over 40 per cent of the world’s “overfished” wild fish stocks go to make fish-meal to feed cattle and pigs but mostly to feed carnivorous farmed fish such as salmon, trout and bass, etc. How can that be sustainable?

We are constantly being told by the salmon farm industry and their apologists that there is a great conversion rate of 1.1 kg of fish-feed to produce 1kg of farmed salmon but they don’t tell you that it takes between 3kg to 5kg of wild fish to make that 1kg of feed.

There are a number of reasons why the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine may be reluctant to issue new salmon-farm licences to the Irish salmon farming industry. According to departmental documents, there are salmon-farm licences for 32,000 tonnes of capacity in Irish waters, but because our waters are warmer than Norway’s and Scotland’s, the Irish salmon farmers cannot even produce 10,000 tonnes of that capacity because of sea-lice infestations, fish diseases, algal blooms, jellyfish attacks, and the use of toxic pesticides. So why would they want or be given any more licences?

Under the current licence regulations, no punitive sanctions can be imposed on any salmon-farm operator that breaks the conditions of their licences.

There are only two options the department can take against salmon farmers that break their licensing regulations: one is to prosecute them in the courts and the other is to discontinue their licence. The department is reluctant to do the former but has earlier this year imposed the latter sanction on a site for breaking the conditions of its licence, a decision which is now the subject of a judicial review.

So you can see why the department would be reluctant to issue any more salmon-farm licences until a whole new set of enforcement regulations are put in place. Even if the department manages to get new regulations put in place over the next number of years, there is no proper infrastructure in place to enforce the regulations. – Yours, etc,

BILLY SMYTH,

Chairman,

Galway Bay

Against Salmon Cages,

Shantalla,

Galway.