Marine Harvest installed a 3km pipe at Loughaunare following advice from its veterinary surgeons as it needed freshwater to stop the spread of amoebic gill disease that is damaging its fish stocks at Kilkieran Bay. It says the temporary pipe will allow water to be transported to a large boat where infected fish can swim to treat their condition.
But Friends of the Irish Environment said Kilkieran Bay is “host to an exceptionally diverse range of animal and plant life”, and home to rare marine life, birds and wintering geese and the pipeline will damage their habitats.
Marine Harvest admit they installed the pipeline before receiving local authority planning permission as they were confronted with “an emergency animal welfare situation”.
Last month, Galway County Council told them a planning application was necessary and the multinational has since sought retention of the pipelines and its associated works.
But FIE has warned that the retention application is invalid, as an environmental assessment should have been carried out when aquaculture licences were granted for Kilkieran Bay in 2002 as the area is deemed a Natura 2000 site.
Tony Lowes of FIE said two salmon rivers enter Kilkieran bay and the sea bed at Ardmore Point hosts rare corals and anemones. It said research by the Heritage Council and by the Parks and Wildlife Service shows protected birds, vulnerable to disturbance, nest along the coastline. “Kilkieran Bay is one of two most valuable coastal sites in Ireland. It is madness to run pipelines across the area to support an industrial size fish farm.”
But Marine Harvest spokesman, Emmet Barrett said the pipeline will have no impact on local water supply or the environment.
“Due to the urgent nature of the situation and the potential negative impact on the welfare of its stocks, Marine Harvest was duty bound to treat with freshwater pending the decision by Galway County Council.
“Up to 60 direct jobs are dependent on the survival of these fish stocks — 15 on the actual farm and 45 in the processing and packing plant and up to 40 more in the downstream value-added smoking and portioning plants preparing the product for export,” Mr Barrett said.
Amoebic gill damage is a condition caused by microscopic amoeba-type organisms which bloom in the sea as part of plankton. The most effective and natural method for removing the amoeba from the gills is to immerse the fish in pure fresh water which kills the amoeba by osmosis.