Salmon and trout stocks in rivers ‘almost gone’

Salmon and trout stocks in West Cork rivers “are almost gone” due to fish farming around Bantry Bay, according to a former National Parks and Wildlife Services manager.

Retired NPWS divisional manager Paddy O’Sullivan, a native of the area, was one of up to 100 people attending a meeting in Adrigole on Saturday night, aimed at halting plans by Marine Harvest to build a 12 to 14- cage organic salmon farm in the bay

Out of 30 contributions to the meeting, two were in favour of the €5.5m aquaculture project at Shot Head. Among those voicing concerns were fishermen, anglers, residents, scientists, and holiday home-owners who had travelled from New York and London.

A Bord Iascaigh Mhara representative was in attendance at the request of Marine Harvest.

A petition has been organised, calling for the Department of the Marine to hold a meeting in the area.

Mr O’Sullivan said the area’s once bountiful native salmon, sea trout and spring stocks are “almost gone completely” due to sea lice from the farms attacking salmon smolt (baby salmon) swimming out to sea.

Freshwater pearl mussels, a protected species, are “not breeding in West Cork rivers due to the lack of fish in the water,” he claimed.

“Those rivers fed us when we were growing up. They are a vital part of our environment and heritage. We have to ask ourselves if this project is sustainable or will it damage the natural environment, the sea and rivers.

“Do we want to wipe out all the native fish stocks for a bit of foreign investment?”

Marine Harvest technical manager Catherine McManus has said the company “has the highest regard for the local environment and community” and is committed to developing the new farm in line with best environmental practice.

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