Angling Notes: Strong opposition to proposed salmon farm in Connemara

Galway Bay Against Salmon Cages campaigning against proposed farm in Ballinakill Bay

Fishing the Lower Dawros River in Connemara, Co Galway, one of many rivers under threat from a proposed fish farm in Ballinakill Bay. Photograph: Angling Ireland.

Fishing the Lower Dawros River in Connemara, Co Galway, one of many rivers under threat from a proposed fish farm in Ballinakill Bay. Photograph: Angling Ireland.

 

In a forthright letter to the Minister for the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, and relevant Government officials, the chairman of Galway Bay Against Salmon Cages (GBASC) has protested against the application by the multinational salmon farm company MOWI for a new 3,500 tonnes (22 cages) salmon farm in Ballinakill Bay SAC, Connemara, Co Galway.

The following is an edited version of the said letter.

“Salmon and trout anglers, river owners/managers, gillies and businesses associated with angling tourism in Connemara are outraged that the Norwegian multinational salmon farm company MOWI (Marine Harvest) has applied for a new salmon farm licence in Ballinakill Bay, which is part of the West Connacht Coast Special Area of Conservation Ref: No. 002998 (SAC).

“The proposed farm will have a devastating impact on the Dawros (Kylemore River) – which flows into Ballinakill Bay – the Delphi, Erriff, Culfin, Bunowen, Carrowinskey, Owenglen and Ballynahinch rivers, amongst others.

“The salmon and sea trout populations in these rivers are presently hanging on by a thread and a licence for a farm such as this would be a ‘final nail in the coffin’ for all the Connemara rivers and businesses dependent on angling tourism.

“According to the Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIAR) supplied with the application, sea lice from this salmon farm will have no impact on wild salmon or sea trout stocks.

“The EIAR states: MOWI farmed salmon are harvested before maturity so therefore may not be able to breed with wild stocks, and that the escape of enough farmed fish with the regularity to cause significant impacts to wild salmon stocks around Ballinakill Bay is not a significant risk.

“We have no confidence in these assurances. Take, for example, the recent discovery of escaped farmed salmon in the Dawros River which flows into Ballinakill Bay. No salmon farm operator has yet owned up to the loss of these escapees or to those captured by anglers in a number of Donegal rivers last year.

“Escapes from salmon farms are occurring on an annual basis. Inland Fisheries Ireland scientists stated in last September that escaped farmed salmon could potentially transfer disease or could interbreed with the indigenous wild salmon population, thereby weakening the natural genetic gene pool of the wild fish.

“We cannot understand how a salmon farm that is proposing to use vaccines on its smolts and toxic pesticides such as Emamectin Benzoate (Slice), Cypermethrin (Alphamax) and Hydrogen Peroxide to kill sea lice, can be certified as organic.

“These same toxic pesticides, according to their Material Safety Sheets are “dangerous for the environment” also “very toxic to aquatic organisms” and “may cause long-term adverse effects in the aquatic environment”.

“We are asking the Minister on behalf of anglers and tourist interests in Connemara to refuse the Ballinakill Bay salmon farm licence proposal on the grounds that it will displace more jobs in angling tourism and possibly in the shellfish industry than it will create.

“Companies that pollute to produce should not be supported as we are in the middle of a climate and species extinction crisis.

“GBASC, along with anglers and tourist interest stakeholders in Connemara, intend to campaign for as long as is necessary to stop this unwanted environmentally-destroying salmon farm going ahead.”

Tribute to Doolan’s lifetime of devotion to Lough Owel
In a fitting tribute to the late Jack Doolan who passed away recently, the secretary of Lough Owel Trout Preservation Association (LOTPA), Stanley McKeon, provides a splendid résumé of Jack’s lifelong devotion to the waters of Lough Owel.

“Jack Doolan was born within one mile of Lough Owel’s shores and lived and worked close to the lake all his life, apart from a short working break to England. Back home he found work with the Inland Fisheries Trust in the late 1950s and settled down to work on the early development of the lake.

Major works included construction of Cullion Fish Farm in the early 1960s; initial cleaning of spawning streams and setting up collection of ova from the lakes’ wild brown trout.

Owel soon became a very important amenity for trout fishermen. The stripping of ova and the continuous stocking of unfed fry of wild trout, saw staggering numbers of almost 500,000 stocked each year.

The late Jack Doolan, devoted his working life to Lough Owel in Mullingar, Co Westmeath.
The late Jack Doolan, devoted his working life to Lough Owel in Mullingar, Co Westmeath.

Jack made sure all development work, including pike control and updating of spawning streams, was carried out to perfection and devoted his work on the lake until his retirement at the age of 65.

He became a committee member of LOTPA and gained the highest honour the association could bestow by electing him as president a number of years ago.

Along with his adored late wife Patti, they became household names for their kindness and helpfulness to anglers throughout Ireland and beyond.”

Deepest sympathy is extended to his children Michael and Mary and his extended family.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

If you have an angling story to share, please send to me at angling@irishtimes.com.

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