The planned development near the island of Inishturk has been the subject of protests by conservationists and fishermen, who claim it could have an impact on the wild salmon population and angling tourism.
A total of €155,000 has been spent by Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) on an independent environmental study in respect of the salmon farm, while a further €52,545 has been spent on legal advice.
Communications consultancy in relation to the contentious licence application has cost the State-funded fisheries authority €8,763, according to information provided to TD Clare Daly in response to a parliamentary question.
The spend has been criticised by Billy Smyth of the lobby group Galway Bay Against Salmon Cages (GBASC), who said taxpayers’ money should not be used for this purpose.
“It is appalling that BIM has wasted more than €216,000 on a salmon farm licence application for Inishturk when it should be the salmon farm operator who is required to apply,” he said.
“If this huge Inishturk salmon farm gets the go- ahead, it will have the potential to wipe out the multi- million euro wild salmon and sea trout tourism industry, which Mayo is noted for not only in Ireland — but all over the world.”
According to BIM, the planned salmon farm would have a projected biennial output of 4,000 tonnes of organic-certified salmon. It would have the potential to create 50 direct jobs and 25 indirect jobs in both low and high-tech areas.
Meanwhile, Inland Fisheries has warned that human activity on Ireland’s rivers is blocking the migration of some species of fish, and interfering with the eco-system as a result.
Its survey found there were 500 instream structures currently in place on the River Nore alone.
It has launched the €6.2m Adaptive Management of Barriers in European Rivers (Amber) project with a view to restoring the rivers’ connectivity.
Inland Fisheries said Amber will “combine citizen science and cutting-edge technology to map the distribution of barriers and assess their effects on freshwater organisms”.
“Ireland is no different from our European neighbours in that our rivers face huge challenges,” said Cathal Gallagher, head of research and development at Inland Fisheries Ireland.
“However, Amber recognises that barriers such as dams generate electricity and play an essential role in addressing water security and in supporting agriculture and industry.
“Amber will help reconnect Europe’s rivers the smart way, knowing which barriers to mitigate and which ones to optimise.”