Campaigners demand action on sea lice

Environmental campaigners have demanded action on sea lice after a new report showed the number of infestations here trebled over a three-year period.

Friends of the Irish Environment cited figures in the annual report for last year by Marine Harvest, which showed the average monthly percentage of sites above annual national trigger levels had jumped from 6.2% in 2010 to 13% in 2011 to 19.9% in 2012. Once those levels are reached the fish have to be treated. It was the second highest figure across the six countries in which Marine Harvest operates.

Marine Harvest is the world’s largest salmon farming company and Friends of the Irish Environment said the figures undermined claims by Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney that the sea lice issue in Ireland was “no longer significant”.

FIE said: “The statistics contradict the Department of Agriculture’s claim during a recent investigation by the European Commission on the sea lice issue that there was a ‘decreasing trend’ in the general level of sea lice on salmon farms.”

A spokesman for the group said: “While, disease and pollution remain significant problems, there are three solutions to the sea lice issue: move the pens from the paths of migratory salmon; contain the pens, controlling all input and output, or change species.”

Separately, the Marine Harvest report said: “The main challenge with regards to disease in 2012 was Amoebic Gill Disease (AGD), which affected us in both Scotland and Ireland. The disease resulted in increased mortality in our stocks, but we gained significant knowledge which allows us to be prepared should it happen again.”

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