A consultant representing a company planning to develop a €3.5m salmon farm in Bantry Bay has told a reconvened oral hearing it will not have a detrimental impact on the general environment or wild fish stocks.
Marine Harvest has been granted a licence for the 16-cage salmon farm off Shot Head and proposes to produce 3,500 tonnes of fish from it every two years. The company already runs a 12-cage salmon farm 8km west of the site at Roancarrig.
Up to 50 people attended the Acquaculture Licenses Appeal Board oral hearing yesterday. The hearing will continue today and is expected to concentrate on submissions from 14 objecting groups and organisations.
The hearing had been adjourned last February due to an oversight that led to a technical report not being released to all parties. This hydrolic flow report was eventually delivered yesterday on behalf of Marine Harvest by Neil Bass, from consultants RPS.
He said waste from the salmon farm was modelled on “worst case” discharge scenarios.
Dr Bass said that even with a worst case situation over a year there would only be 13mm of solids (faeces and uneaten food) deposited under the salmon pens and this would not result in any degradation of the site as the deposits would be grazed on by small seabed-dwelling creatures and gently dispersed by currents.
“On sites which are properly managed you’ll see virtually nothing,” he said.
Dr Bass said the maximum stocking density would be 10 kilos of salmon per cubic metre of water.
He said that this low stocking rate would reduce stress and disease in the fish and residue from medication required to combat sea lice infestation in the salmon would not cause any problems as Bantry Bay is flushed by 27bn tonnes of water every month — equivalant to the weight of the world’s human population.
Chairman of the oral hearing, Owen McIntyre, heard one local objector claim that 13mm of solids deposited under the pens would kill off shrimp and prawns. Angling guide and fisheries manager Brian Curran, who is based in Galway, claimed that Chilean scientists had recently published a paper which stated that some medications used on farmed salmon were toxic to lobster, crab and shrimps.
Dr Bass said there was an entirely different situation in Chile as its farmed salmon industry had gone through two disasters due to “greed”. Concerns have been expressed that an outbreak of sea lice in the pens could kill not only the farmed salmon but wild salmon and sea trout.
Dr Bass said statutory monitoring of sea lice levels in all Irish salmon farms took place 14 times each year. If infestation is over a certain level the fish must be treated to kill the parasite.
He said just six treatments were needed in the past eight years in all salmon farms in Bantry Bay, which was well below the national average.
Dr Bass admitted that the sea lice could get into local rivers from salmon farms, but maintained they could not get there in sufficient numbers to cause any serious infestation.
However, he said where a salmon farm is close to a river the river “could be in trouble” from sea lice.
This, he added, was not the case in Bantry where the salmon farms were not near rivers.
A number of placards were placed by objectors at the entrance to the hotel’s conference centre at the Westlodge Hotel where the oral hearing is taking place.
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