An Irish salmon producer has been given the green light for a €6m expansion in Cork, 10 years after it first applied, amid criticism from environmentalists about the current licensing laws.
Mowi Ireland first applied for the licence in June 2011, when it was known as Marine Harvest Ireland.
The firm is a subsidiary of the Mowi Group, a Norwegian-headquartered company with 12,200 employees in 25 countries. It operates in five counties on the west coast of Ireland, from Donegal to Cork and Kerry.
The Irish arm of the world’s largest salmon producer currently operates fish production sites at Ahabeg and Roancarrig on the western side of Bantry Bay.
“By developing a new site for organic salmon in Bantry Bay, the continuing development of stocking, harvesting, fallowing, and rotation programmes can be advanced in compliance with international best practice, thereby securing the long-term future of aquaculture in the area,” said a spokesman for Mowi Ireland.
“This is a very positive step forward for the Irish aquaculture industry as a whole:
However, opponents to the expansion said they are “gutted” by the decision to grant the licence.
A spokesman for the conservation charity Friends of the Irish Environment, based on the Beara peninsula where the expanded operation is to be located, said: “Both operators and the opponents agree that the current licensing system is not fit for purpose, and yet we continue to grant permissions under this infirm legal regime.
“Penalties cannot be graded, leaving the authorities only the option of shutting down farms, which is open to legal challenge.
Mowi Ireland said the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine had originally granted the licence in 2015, but that the decision was appealed to the Aquaculture Licence Appeals Board by 14 parties for various reasons.
The firm said it had appealed the 2015 granting on the grounds that minor prescriptive clauses in the licence failed to take into account potential future technological developments.
In 2019, then agriculture minister Michael Creed took what was described as the unprecedented step of discontinuing a licence held by Mowi Ireland to produce farmed salmon in Ballinskelligs Bay, Co Kerry.
Salmon farming has increasingly become contentious across the world because of its perceived environmental impact.
According to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), salmon consumption worldwide is three times higher than it was in 1980, and salmon farming is now the fastest-growing food production system in the world.
It has significant potential for negative impact on places and species, and should be significantly and measurably reduced across the world, the WWF has said.