#GALWAY FISH FARM - The board of Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) has issued a statement on the proposed Aran Islands deep sea salmon farm in Galway Bay, which has been the source of some controversy in recent weeks.
The board said it agrees with the recent statement by Minister Fergus O’Dowd on offshore salmon farming, and that it welcomes the development of Ireland’s aquaculture sector "once any development complies with Ireland’s obligations under relevant EU environmental legislation, particularly the Habitats Directive, and does not adversely affect salmon and sea trout stocks."
In addition, the IFI board said it has made a submission on the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) prepared by Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) for the proposed offshore salmon farm as part of the public consultation process, which is available on the IFI website.
As previously reported on Afloat.ie, the public consultation period began last month for the 500-hectare organic fish farm to be located off Inis Oirr. BIM has applied for a deep sea salmon farming licence at the site, which would be one of the largest of its kind in Europe. If approved, the operation could more than double Ireland's current farmed salmon production rate.
The IFI board's statement notes: "In the submission, concerns were raised in relation to the location and scale of the proposed salmon farm and how its development and operation could impact on wild salmon and sea trout stocks and their habitat.
"These concerns are based on scientific reports by respected authors and knowledge of the impact of existing fish farms on salmon and sea trout populations off the west coast of Ireland."
The submission also highlights "recent peer reviewed international scientific literature on the impacts of sea lice on salmonids" which poses a significant threat to wild salmon in Irish waters, as reported on Afloat.ie.
The board said it does not believe "that the corpus of peer reviewed international scientific literature which recognises the negative impacts of sea lice on salmonids have been adequately dealt with in the EIS".
While welcoming "any sustainable initiative which will provide jobs in rural coastal communities", the IFI board said it questions the figure of 500 jobs it's been reported the 15,000-tonne fish farm project would create, making comparison to a new 2,000-tonne aquaculture scheme in Scotland that's expected to create just four full-time positions.
The board members say they "have serious concerns that whatever the number of jobs created by the current proposal, they will be more than offset by the associated loss of jobs in the recreational angling and tourism sectors" if the scheme results in any negative effects on those areas.
"Ireland's reputation as a pristine wild fishery destination must be safeguarded," they added, noting that proposals for two further offshore salmon farms in Mayo and Donegal "are premature given that significant issues over the current proposal have not yet been resolved.
"No further applications should be progressed until all stakeholders are satisfied that the current proposal is sustainable and has no adverse impact on wild salmon and sea trout stocks."
Inland Fisheries Ireland is the State agency charged with the conservation, protection, development management and promotion of Ireland's inland fisheries and sea angling resource.