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Minister Coveney’s facts about fish farming practices are disputed

Minister Simon Coveney’s letter to the Irish Examiner (Mar 28) in response to your thoughtful editorial about fish farming does not represent the situation as he outlined it to the Senate.

The minister wrote to you that Ireland has a ‘rigorous systems in place in consultation with the European Commission and we ensure that our best practice systems are rigorously enforced.’ In fact, he told the Oireachtas last July that there are more than 520 licences outstanding, and that no licences have been issued in the last two years.

The minister admitted during the course of the Senate debate that ‘many existing aquaculture operators are essentially operating outside of licence.’

‘Operating outside licence’ is an illegal activity and flatly contradicts the minister’s statement ‘that our best practice systems are rigorously enforced.’

These sites without a valid licence give the lie to his further assertion to you that ‘an implication that fish farms are not properly regulated is not in accordance with the facts.’ The facts are that the Minister this week provided Cork North TD Michael MacNamara, in a written parliamentary reply, a list of 19 such farms which are operating ‘outside licence’.

These farms continue — as you pointed out — to have a ‘devastating impact on migratory fish stocks and water quality.’ They contribute to pollution of our bays and infect wild salmon with sea lice which exceed the permitted ‘trigger level’ at some locations and in some seasons in 100% of the tests.

In fact, one firm recently admitted that they treat fish before the ‘trigger level’, a practice that will increase pollution and resistance to chemo-theraputants while giving the appearance of having addressed the sea lice problem.

The delays that are being blamed on the European Court judgment against Ireland for failure to properly assess fish farms conceal the fact that, if properly assessed, open net fish farms in the bays along the west coast of Ireland could and should not be permitted.

Tony Lowes

Friends of the Irish Environment



Co Cork


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