Expert warns of fish farm risks

A renowned international marine biology expert has written to Simon Coveney, the fisheries minister, about “incorrect information” that is allegedly being circulated about the effects of sea lice on wild salmon.

The letter comes as the Department of Agriculture, Marine, and Food decides whether to give the green light to two planned organic salmon farms. One is a private commercial concern in Bantry Bay, and the other, off Inis Oirr, is being developed by state agency Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM).

The letter was penned by the University of Auckland’s associate professor in marine ecology, Professor Mark Costello. He wrote that salmon lice from farms “have proven difficult to control on farms, especially large farms” and have been “linked to mass fatal parasite infestations on wild salmon and trout in Ireland, Scotland, Norway, and Canada”.

He argues that while an average of five adult lice per fish generally triggers anti- lice chemical treatment on farms, “if there are a million fish on the farm with one egg-bearing louse each, the farm may release 500m lice larvae”.

He argues, that at the infective stage, sea lice “actively searches for a host” and, wind-aided, tend to move towards the shore and estuaries and into the path of juvenile salmon”.

Niall Greene of Salmon Watch Ireland called on Mr Coveney “to order an independent review of all aspects of the Galway Bay farm”.

But BIM said its environmental impact statement on the Galway Bay farm “is based on latest comprehensive research”.

The Department said its criteria surpass that of any jurisdiction.

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