A European Commission investigation into the impact of sea lice on salmon farms is to be reopened.
The investigation, closed 14 months ago, could have implications for planned Marine Harvest and Bord Iascaigh Mhara fish farms in Bantry Bay and Galway Bay.
In deciding to re-open the file, the Commission referred to recent research which found ‘fundamental errors’ in earlier Marine Institute research which had shown the mortality rates of salmon infested by sea lice is just 1%.
This Marine Institute research had been used to underpin Bord Iascaigh Mhara’s plans to massively expand the country’s farmed fish production.
Instead, the commission pointed to an article in the Journal of Fish Diseases in August and forwarded to them by Friends of the Irish Environment, which found mortality rates of salmon affected by sea lice are 30%.
Save Bantry Bay chairman Ciarán O’Shea said he would be happy to see a full independent investigation into Ireland’s regulation of sea lice on salmon farms.
“We believe the Department [of Agriculture, Food and Marine] has been using misinformation and some of the scientific evidence has been tailored in such a way that it would support the anticipated outcome.”
The reopening of the inquiry follows a complaint from FOIE that a report from Inland Fisheries Ireland on the damage caused to wild fish from sea lice linked to salmon farms was withheld from the commission by the department.
The group said this report was not included in the department’s final submission to the commission in 2011, which instead relied on evidence supplied by the Marine Institute.
The Office of the Ombudsman has launched a preliminary investigation into the issue.
FOIE is one of a number of groups opposed to plans to build two large organic salmon farms in Cork and Galway. It has claimed the department has a conflict of interest in the Galway project as it is both licensing and promoting the plan.
Independent MEP Marian Harkin welcomed the decision to reopen the probe&.
The Department of Agriculture said it is examining the matter and looks forward to responding in detail to the commission within the Jan 15 deadline.
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