Deep Sea Fish Farm Development in Galway Bay Bay

Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) is the statutory authority tasked with the responsibility for the conservation, protection and development of the inland fisheries resource and recreational sea angling. Recent legislative changes (SI: 477) have also tasked IFI via the Minister for Communications Energy and Natural Resources (DCENR) with additional responsibilities as part of Ireland’s implementation of the Habitats Directive, these include responsibility for the conservation of wild salmon, pollan, shad, smelt and lamprey.

IFI are the responsible agency in respect of the licensing and management commercial and recreational fishing for salmon, with protection responsibilities at sea out to 12 miles from baselines. Given the organisation’s close involvement with costal and island communities, IFI recognise and understand the pressures that these communities are experiencing. IFI understand clearly the impact that the closure and increased control of inshore fisheries for conservation reasons has had on these local communities. IFI is closely involved in supporting some of the former licenced commercial fishermen in their efforts to diversify out of salmon fishing.

IFI have been concerned regarding the negative impact of salmon farming on wild sea trout and salmon stocks, particularly in Connemara, since the late 1980’s. Sea lice infestation has been a particular concern. Many of the sites chosen to locate salmon farms were in shallow bays, close to river mouths where existing wild sea trout and salmon stocks existed these were not suitable locations for farming salmon from a wild fish perspective. Multiple farms in bays with two year classes of fish in close proximity lead to husbandry problems and lack of ability to control sea lice. While there has been an improvement in sea lice control recently, aided by lower stocking densities, fewer sites, and single generation sites, some existing locations remain a threat to wild salmonid stocks due to their proximity to rivers and problems with maintaining farm lice levels at a level whereby they do not impact on wild fisheries. IFI and its predecessors the Central and Regional Fisheries Boards have consistently sought the re-location of such farms away from river mouths. In this context, the proposal for a deep sea salmon farm in a more off-shore location is a move in the right direction. While such a location is not likely to encounter the same problems associated with farms in shallow bays close to river mouths, a more off-shore deep sea location is not without potential for negative impacts of wild salmon and sea trout stocks. The scale of the present proposal is of very significant concern as it provides for a greater production tonnage of salmon at this one location than is currently being produced nationally. In the past salmon farms were considered large when they were licensed for a harvest of 2000 tons – the current proposal is for a farm harvesting 15,000 tonnes based in two sites in Galway Bay. The comments of IFI on the EIS for this proposal are set out below.