The Aquaculture Licences Appeals Board (ALAB) has asked for a new environmental impact statement on the risk of sea-lice infestation and assessments regarding any potential impact on the otter, seal, and wild bird population in the area near Bantry. It said it could be next October before a final decision is made.
It follows the receipt of the report of the chairman of the oral hearing into the case, which centres on Marine Harvest Ireland (MHI), Ireland’s largest producer of farmed salmon.
It already operates salmon farming facilities in Bantry Bay at Ahabeg and Roancarraig, which it proposes to operate in conjunction with the proposed facility at Shot Head.
The present aquaculture licence permits biennial production of 3,500 tonnes of farmed salmon over a 24-month production cycle.
However, there were 14 appellants — 13 appellants objecting to the grant of the licence and one the licensee, MHI, who requested amendment of licence conditions relating to production limits and harvesting periods and the removal of some other conditions.
The oral hearing first took place over two days in February, when it had to be rescheduled due to an accidental omission in providing details of a study conducted on behalf of MHI to all parties. The resumed hearing took place in September.
In his report, the chair of the oral hearing, Prof Owen McIntyre, noted the submissions made by appellants including Save Bantry Bay and Salmon Watch Ireland, which he said centred on the suitability of the site, and the likely environmental and ecological effects.
He recommended a number of reviews but said conditional upon the results of the supplemental EIA and desk-top studies, “the board should issue an aquaculture licence for the Shot Head facility”, subject to conditions.
ALAB said it was now proceeding to seek that additional information, starting with “a supplemental environmental impact statement from Marine Harvest Ireland addressing the risk of sea-lice infestation of wild salmonids migrating from/to the Dromagowlane and Trafask Rivers, and any resulting implications for local freshwater pearl mussel populations, based on available research and data, and an assessment of the potential impact of salmon farm waste on water quality”.
It has also sought an assessment of the otter population of the Dromagowlane and Trafask catchments, an assessment of the potential impact upon the common seal populations in the Glengarriff Harbour and Woodland Special Area of Conservation, and an assessment of the potential impact upon wild birds within nearby Special Protected Areas.
“Arising from the receipt of the report of the oral hearing, the ALAB reviewed again the timescale for determination of this appeal at its meeting on December 13, 2017, and has formed the view it will not be in a position to determine this appeal by January 31 next as it is required to seek and then consider the assessments referred to above,” it said.
“Accordingly, the board hereby gives notice, as provided for in Section 56 (3) of the Fisheries (Amendment) Act 1997, that it is the intention of the board that the appeal will be determined by it as soon as practicable and by no later than October 31, 2018.”