Danes put brakes on fish farms

Danes put brakes on fish farms
Bantry Bay sunset

THE Danish government has decided to ban new fish farms at sea, or expansion of existing ones. The move is being watched by the industry here and by people who continue to oppose such farms planned for places such as Bantry Bay, Co Cork.

However, given our Government’s policy to almost double production from fish farms in the next four years, it’s unlikely a similar ban will be imposed here.

The Danish ban, for environmental reasons, comes after years of campaigns against pollution from aquaculture and, crucially, a change of government. New environment minister Lea Wermelin says there is no room for more fish farms in Danish waters than the current 19 and the future of fish farming is on land.

Ms Wermelin said the reason she is in favour of this is for the sake of the marine environment, pointing out coastal areas and inland waters are overloaded with nitrogen.

The leader of the Danish Anglers Association, Verner W Hansen, described the decision as “absolutely fantastic” and a huge victory for the marine environment and wild fish stocks, but Danish Aquaculture said it was a “sad decision”.

Waste from fish farms and pollution are often the cause of strong criticism. Concerns are also often voiced about the spread of disease and parasites, like sea lice, from farmed fish to wild fish.

Key to the future of fish farming is the development of systems to limit environmental damage from their waste that comes from them. Objectors to fish farms at sea are becoming more strident in their calls for land-based farms.

There’s been a 12-fold jump in production from fish farms, globally, in 30 years. In Ireland, government policy is to increase annual output from 45,000 tonnes to 81,700 tonnes, by 2023. There are fish farms in 14 Irish coastal counties, producing salmon, mussels, oysters and other seafood and providing around 2,000 jobs.

The aquaculture licensing process can be slow.

It often takes several years for a project to materialise, especially since objections are nearly always inevitable and environmental assessments have to be carried out.

A review group is making recommendations to the government to speed up, simplify and make a quite complex process more transparent.

Meanwhile, the developers behind the controversial Shot Head salmon farm, in Bantry Bay, are due to have further appropriate assessments completed by September 23. A decision on the farm is expected before March 31, 2020. There are concerns that seabirds, including fulmar, gannets and guillemots, could be at risk.

Further screening of the Shot Head plans has been welcomed by the Save Bantry Bay group which says land-based salmon farming technology is coming along rapidly and offers an economically viable alternative which puts no species at risk.

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