Up to 80,000 salmon worth a total of €2.4m dead in major fish kill in West Cork

Up to 80,000 salmon worth a total of €2.4m dead in major fish kill in West Cork

Investigations are underway to establish the cause of the mass fish kill incident at Mowi Ireland’s Ahabeg and Roancarrig sites in Bantry Bay. File photo: Andy Gibson.

An estimated 80,000 farmed salmon worth up to €2.4m have been wiped out by a massive toxic plankton bloom off Cork which is being linked to climate change.

Coming as the Government announced its €125bn Climate Action Plan, scientists from the Marine Institute and other experts are now investigating the incident which decimated stock at Mowi Ireland’s fish farm operations in Bantry Bay.

Mowi, the major Norwegian-based seafood company confirmed last night that its Ahabeg and Roancarrig sites in Bantry Bay were both affected by the toxic bloom in late October.

The naturally occurring bloom was exacerbated by warmer waters, the company said.

The average water temperature in the bay is around 11.5C but it was hovering close to 13C in recent days.

The Marine Institute (MI) warned last March that harmful algal bloom patterns in Irish marine waters are changing because of climate change.

However, MI stopped short last night of confirming a definite link between this bloom event which hit Bantry Bay and climate change, pending further analysis.

A spokesperson said a phytoplankton bloom is currently being observed in the southwest, leading to a brown water discolouration in some areas.

“The Marine Institute is working on identifying the causative species of the bloom,” she said.

Mowi Ireland said it is still assessing the extent of losses arising out of the incident but industry sources said up to 80,000 salmon may have been lost.

The stock was due to be harvested next week, with most for export to Europe.

The incident came as the Government announced its €125bn Climate Action Plan to cut carbon emissions by 51% by 2030. 

Major emissions reductions in every sector of society including agriculture, energy, transport, construction and housing are included. If all sectors combined hit their upper targets, Ireland would surpass the 51% target. However, if each sector was only to hit its lowest number, that overall target figure would be missed.

Despite its lofty goals, the plan has been criticised for being "high on ambition but short on details" by opposition TDs.

Unveiling the plan, the Taoiseach Micheál Martin said Ireland "must confront the reality we know face; the time to step up is now."

He said reaching climate neutrality no later than 2050 will require "a profound change in the practices".

"Our homes, workplaces, communities must all adapt but the benefits to all of us and future generations are clear. Failure to act is simply not an option,” he said.

Key aims include increasing renewable electricity by up to 80%, accelerating the electrification of road transport, and encouraging cycling, walking and public transport over private cars. Incentives for switching to electric vehicles will be increased, and there will be a scale-up in retrofitting homes.

The plan makes clear that some sectors will be more impacted than others, and the government will need to help people with the costs of the so-called just transition to ensure that it happens.

Amid much speculation about the potential effects of the plan on farmers, a reduction in emission of between 22% and 30% is outlined for the agriculture sector, which is substantially lower than what is being demanded of other sectors.

In relation to the size of the national herd, the plan does not dictate a number by which it must reduce by, but Transport Minister Eamon Ryan said it will have to decrease.

The Government also sought to play down fears that Norwegian firm Equinor's withdrawal from the Irish market would damage the country's ability to meet renewable energy targets.

However, Mr Ryan said that Ireland will be ready for an auction of the rights to build seven "relevant projects" next year.

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