Two new scientific studies suggest that chemicals used to combat pests and diseases in offshore salmon farms may be having a harmful effect on shrimp, lobsters, and other crustaceans.
An environmental campaign group has warned that the Department of Agriculture, Food, and the Marine could face compensation claims from fishermen in the future unless the use of these chemicals is banned.
Studies by the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency and an independent research institute in Norway are currently being examined by the Marine Institute, according to a department spokesperson.
The new research was brought to the attention of Minister Michael Creed by campaign group Galway Bay Against Salmon Cages in a letter sent last month.
The studies investigated the harmful effects of chemicals used in salmon farming on crustaceans and the wider marine environment. The chemicals are typically used to combat sea lice and amoebic gill disease.
The study by the International Research Institute of Stavanger suggests that the widespread use of hydrogen peroxide in salmon farms is more deadly to shrimp than previously thought.
Meanwhile, Scottish Environmental Protection Agency researchers discovered that the impact of two other chemicals used in fish farming, Emamectin Benzoate and Teflubenzuron, may extend beyond the immediate vicinity.
They say further studies are now required to understand the “wider-scale cumulative impacts” of the chemicals in light of their findings.
In his letter to Mr Creed, the chairman of Galway Bay Against Salmon Cages, Billy Smyth, said it has now been “proven without doubt” that pesticides and chemicals used in salmon farming are “destroying shrimp and other crustacean stocks”.
He warned: “If you and this Government continue to grant new salmon farm licences and continue to support the existing ones, you may be leaving the [department] open to cases for compensation from inshore fishermen for loss of earnings in the sfuture.”
Commenting on the matter, Mr Smyth said: “I think it’s disgraceful that terrestrial farmers would never be allowed to use these toxic chemicals anywhere near a water body, yet salmon farmers can pour them straight into our bays — a number of which are [Special Areas of Conservation].”
A spokesperson for the department confirmed that the correspondence had been received by Mr Creed.
“The department is aware of the reports in question and has referred them to the Marine Institute for observations,” it said.