According to the IFA, Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) and “other anti-development lobby groups” have condemned “dozens of coastal communities to a slow economic demise by delaying vital inward investment by calling in the eurocrats to strangle fish farm development”.
Richie Flynn, the IFA aquaculture spokesman, said: “There is a generation of young people who can thank FIE for forcing emigration and a life on the dole for zero quantifiable gain for the environment or the economy. No sensible company or individual can afford to wait around for up to 10 years for answers to licence applications to produce quality salmon, oysters, clams or mussels — all of which are in severely short demand worldwide.”
Last night, FIE director, Tony Lowes rubbished the IFA’s claims and said the “contained fish farming systems” that FIE and many other fishermen and coastal communities support “create an equal number of jobs as open net fish farming at sea”.
“And contained systems inland won’t destroy the environment and another multi-million euro industry in this country, salmon angling,” he said.
Last week, a European Commission investigation into the impact of sea lice from fish farms on wild salmon was reopened after lobbying by FIE.
The investigation, which had closed 14 months ago, could have implications for planned Marine Harvest and Bord Iascaigh Mhara fish farms in Bantry Bay and Galway Bay.
But Mr Flynn said the grounds for re-opening the file were a “non-issue” based on technicalities.
“FIE have misquoted and suppressed information with the ultimate aim of stretching out the waiting period for fish and shellfish farming projects to the point where they are beyond the financial reach of Irish investors.
“Fish farmers who are allowed to produce even small quantities have played a significant part in improving coastal water quality, developing best practice environmental monitoring and, encouraging the consumption of healthy seafood... Yet FIE beat a path to Brussels... to the gain solely of the aquaculture industries in Scotland, Norway, the Faroe Islands, and Canada.”
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 wild salmon infested by sea lice is just 1%.
Instead, the commission pointed to an article in the Journal of Fish Diseases in August and forwarded to them by FIE, which found mortality rates of salmon affected by sea lice are 30%.