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Minister for Marine Michael Creed has discontinued a license held by Norwegian multinational Mowi for a fish farm in Co Kerry.

A breach of license conditions at a smolt hatchery run by the Norwegian aquaculture company’s Irish division in Donegal has also been identified by Mr Creed’s department.

A third investigation by his department found no “provable” breach of license conditions at a salmon and rainbow trout farm run by the same company near Inishfarnard in Coulagh Bay, Co Cork.

Mr Creed’s decision to discontinue a fish farm license for the first time was taken under the Fisheries (Amendment) Act, 1997, which permits him to revoke or amend a license if he considers it in the public interest, or if he is satisfied of a breach of conditions.

Mowi, the world’s largest farm-reared salmon company, has its headquarters in Norway, and runs farms in Chile, Canada, Scotland, Ireland and the Faroe Islands. It employs almost 300 people at over a dozen fish farms in five coastal counties here.

Its global operation employs over 14,000 people in 24 countries and recorded a turnover of almost €3.6 billion in 2016.

As reported in today's Irish Examiner, investigations by the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine identified overstocking at Silver King Seafoods Ltd at Deenish in Ballinskelligs bay, Co Kerry three years ago.

The Kerry farm is licensed to harvest up to 500 tonnes (dead weight) of salmon in any one year, but harvested just over 1100 tonnes in 2016 – over 121 per cent more than permitted.

The breach is “significant”, the department says, and the decision to rescind the license under section 68 of the Fisheries (Amendment) Act 1997 is “proportionate and warranted”.

“The company was fully aware of the limits set by the specific condition of the licence governing harvest tonnage,”it notes.

“Breaching licence conditions serves to undermine public confidence in the regulatory system, and therefore enforcement by the department of licence conditions is in the public interest,” it says.

The department says that an increase of 121 per cent in stock harvested from the site must increase its effluent discharge.

Mr Creed’s department also identified a license breach at a freshwater smolt cultivation site run by Comhlucht Iascaireachta Fanad Teo T/A Marine Harvest Ireland at Lough Altan, Procklis near Falcarragh, Co Donegal.

Under the license terms, annual production should not exceed 2.5 million smolts (two point five million) at the plant, which provides juveniles for seawater farms.

However,the department opted not to revoke the license, but to amend it, due to the “very serious commercial consequences for the company”. The department’s inspector had recommended revoking the license.

The department also decided to amend the license at the Inishfarnard farm in Co Cork where it found “no provable breach” in “circumstances where evidential issues may arise as to what technically constitutes a smolt”.

The license amendment is to “avoid a similar situation occurring in the future”, it states. Its inspector recommended discontinuing this license.

Mr Creed declined to comment on the decisions. Mowi/Marine Harvest said it was seeking legal advice and would comment further. It said it was “disturbed” by the fact that it had sought a renewal and improvement of the Deenish license back in 2007.

Environmental group Salmon Watch Ireland said it “welcomed the fact that the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine is doing its job”.

Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) welcomed the decision in relation to the Deenish fish farm in Co Kerry.

However, FIE spokesman Tony Lowes urged Mr Creed to reconsider his decision in relation to the two other fish farms, given the recommendations by the department’s own official.

“The high levels of overstocking means that the pressures on the environment have not been assessed, as required by European and national law. The overstocking also undermines the department’s sea lice control, where the number of lice is based on samples taken multiplied by the number of fish licensed,” Mr Lowes said.

Mr Lowes said that a “failure to deal vigorously with significant breaches of licence conditions is a result of the conflict of interest within the department between its role as industry developer and as industry regulator”.

“The Government must reorganise the department so that the Marine Institute and the Sea Food Protection Authority are administered by a non-fisheries division of the department,” he said.

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#FishFarm - Permission granted for a salmon farm to extract water from a Connemara lake is facing a judicial review, as the Connacht Tribune reports.

An Bord Pleanála recently greenlit plans by Bradán Beo Teo, the region’s biggest producing salmon farm enterrprise, to extract fresh water from Loch an Mhuilinn for cleaning and disease treatment purposes after the company was previously blocked by Galway County Council.

But now local environmental activists are behind a proposed High Court review of the way the planning board arrived at its decision.

The Connacht Tribune has more on the story HERE.

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#Angling - Hundreds of thousands of rainbow trout escaped from a commercial fish farm in Co Tyrone last year, according to the Loughs Agency.

BBC News has details on the cross-border body’s report into the incident on the River Strule at Newtownstewart in August 2017, which estimates some 387,000 female rainbow trout entered the river system.

Despite concerns over potential widespread impact on the wild salmon and trout fishery in the area, it’s believed the majority are still concentrated in the lower Strule, lower Derg and upper Mourne.

Local anglers are asked to continue taking the farmed fish from these rivers and reporting their catches, particularly from important spawning grounds, as mass removal is not an option.

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#FishFarm - Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) has spent over €200,000 on its application for a proposed salmon farm off Inishturk in Co Mayo, as the Irish Examiner reports.

The planned project, much like the withdrawn proposal for Galway Bay for an even larger-scale fish farm, has faced opposition from local anglers and conservationists, who have lambasted the €216,000 spend — on an environmental study, legal advice and communications consultancy — as a ‘waste’ of taxpayers’ money.

“It is appalling that BIM has wasted more than €216,000 on a salmon farm licence application for Inishturk when it should be the salmon farm operator who is required to apply,” said Billy Smyth of lobby group Galway Bay Against Salmon Cages.

BIM, the State agency for Ireland's sea fisheries and aquaculture, says the Inishturk project could produce 4,000 tonnes of farmed salmon annually, and create as many as 75 direct and indirect jobs.

The Irish Examiner has more on the story HERE.

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#FishFarm - Could proposals for the Galway Bay Marine and Renewable Energy Test Site provide a back door for fish farming in the bay?

That’s the concern of local campaigners after a Statutory Instrument was enacted earlier this month that changes the licensing laws for salmon farming for research purposes, as the Connacht Tribune reports.

The new law allows for salmon farms under 50 tonnes to operate without an Environmental Impact Assessment – one of the issues before the withdrawl last year of controversial plans for what would have been one of the largest aquaculture projects in Europe off the Aran Islands.

According to Billy Smyth, chair of campaign group Galway Bay Against Salmon Cages, the move confirms suspicions that the Marine Institute test site off Spiddal could be used for fish farming.

“Let the Marine Institute just ask the Norwegians for the results of their research and save money,” he said.

The public consultation on the foreshore lease application for upgrades to the present test site closed earlier this month.

But contributions are still being sought on a new strategy for coastal communities with fishing and fish farming interests under the FLAG West scheme, following a series of public meetings in Co Galway last week. Galway Bay FM has more HERE.

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#FishFarm - Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) has announced an extension of its public consultation on freshwater trout production.

Intended to facilitate the fullest possible consideration by the Board of IFI of stakeholders' views, the consultation period originally due to close on 19 August has now been extended to 19 September.

Stakeholders are encouraged to make a submission through the consultation process, the findings of which will be comprehensively reviewed and considered by IFI, with a report made to Minister of State Seán Kyne’s department, before any further steps are taken. There will be no disruption to the supply of fish during this process.

Information on the consultation is available on the IFI website or from any IFI office. Submissions should be made in writing on or before 5pm on Monday 19 September to [email protected] or by post to Fish Farm Consultation, Inland Fisheries Ireland, 3044 Lake Drive, Citywest Business Campus, Dublin D24 Y265.

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#FishKill - Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) has successfully prosecuted Irish Water over a chemical discharge on 18 August last year that causing a significant fish kill on a tributary of the Tullamore River.

At a sitting of Portlaoise District Court on Friday 15 July, Judge Catherine Staines heard evidence from Michael Fitzsimons, a senior fisheries environmental officer with IFI, that following a pollution report received from Irish Water, IFI carried out a detailed investigation on the Clodiagh River.

Over 3,000 fish mortalities were estimated over a 4km stretch of the river, consisting predominantly of trout along with other species such as salmon, lamprey, minnow and stoneloach.

The fish kill was as a direct result of a chemical discharge from an accident at the Irish Water plant in Clonsalee, Co Laois. Irish Water entered a guilty plea.

Judge Staines directed Irish Water to pay IFI’s legal costs of €5,016 and to cover the full cost of the rehabilitation works to be carried out downstream of the incident area. A development plan will be formulated by IFI in the coming weeks.

The judge did not impose a fine on the basis that it would be the Irish taxpayer paying for the incident. She also instructed Irish Water to carry out a full review of its Waste Water Treatment Plants (WWTP) and provide a report to her by 21st July 2017.

Judge Staines stated that she did not want to see an incident like this happening again.

“This was a serious pollution incident which will take a considerable number of years for the river to recover," said Amanda Mooney, Shannon River Basin District director with IFI.

"I am pleased with the outcome of the case and the provision for vital rehabilitation works to assist fish stocks to recover naturally.”

Judge Staines adjourned the case until 21 July 2017 to allow sufficient time for the rehabilitation works and WWTP review report to be concluded.

In other news, submissions are open for the consultation on plans to phase out fish farming at three of four IFI facilities it currently operates around Ireland.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, operations in Roscrea, Co Tipperary; Cullion in Mullingar, Co Westmeath and Lough Allua in West Cork are affected by the restructuring plan.

Facilities at Cong in Co Mayo will be retained or research and stocking purposes, but rainbow and brown trout will no longer be farmed for sale.

Submissions should be made in writing before 5pm on Friday 19 August to [email protected] or Fish Farm Consultation, IFI, 3044 Lake Drive, Citywest Business Campus, Dublin D24 Y265.

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#FishFarm - Inland Fisheries Ireland has written to stakeholders affected by its recently announced phase-out of fish farming operations that its farms will operate as normal for 2016.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, the IFI board made the decision to cease fish farming in order to concentrate on its core remit of conservation, protection and development.

Operations in Roscrea, Co Tipperary; Cullion in Mullingar, Co Westmeath; Lough Allua in West Cork; and Cong, Co Mayo are affected by the cessation plan.

But IFI has moved to assure stakeholders that a consultation process will take place to develop the plan.

IFI intends to maintain a single facility for research and stocking purposes, most likely with an modernised hatchery at Cong due to the quality and quantity of local waters.

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Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) has announced its intention to phase out its fish farming operations over the coming years. A plan will now be developed to implement this decision.

The IFI Board, having reviewed the fish farm operations from both the technical and resource allocation perspectives, has chosen this course of action to ensure that IFI can deliver on its core remit of conservation, protection and development.

IFI management met with the small number of staff who are directly involved in fish farming operations last week to inform them of the decision and has given assurances that there will be no compulsory redundancies as a result of this move and that their employment with IFI will continue.

Dr Ciaran Byrne, CEO of Inland Fisheries Ireland, said: “IFI has performed a technical and financial review of its fish farming operations. Reduced resources within the organisation do not allow for the continuation of these aquaculture activities in the medium to long-term. The Board has no alternative but to phase out this element of its work and concentrate on the conservation, protection and development of Ireland’s inland fisheries and sea angling resources.

“IFI appreciates that many state and club waters have been stocked from IFI fish farms over many decades. We acknowledge the support of IFI’s customers and regret the organisation is unable to continue supporting fish stocking in this manner. The phase out plan will include consultation with affected stakeholders.”

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#FishFarm - Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) has withdrawn the application for its controversial fish farm proposal for the Aran Islands ahead of new plans to limit the size of aquaculture projects.

As the Irish Examiner reports, campaigners against the ambitious 500-hectare, 15,000 tonne organic salmon farm for Galway Bay have welcomed the decision by BIM to rethink its development in line with a new national strategic plan that will limit fish farms to under 7,000 tonnes.

BIM's application has been with the Department of the Marine for more than three years, with Marine Minister Simon Coveney saying this past March that he would not be drawn on any timeframe for a decision to approve what would have been the largest such fish farm in Europe.

The application has long faced opposition from local angling and environmental groups, as well as concerns from the EU over its environmental impact.

This past summer controversy arose again as campaigners blasted BIM for spending thousands of euro on PR on the project, that would have seen Ireland attempt to overtake Scotland as a leading producer of organic salmon.

The Irish Examiner has more on the story HERE.

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