MINISTER FOR the Marine Simon Coveney has been urged to meet opponents of a proposed €3.5 million fish farm project for Bantry Bay in west Cork.
The group, known as Save Bantry Bay, says it is not opposed to aquaculture, but is opposed to this specific project planned for Shot Head off Adrigole.
Bantry Bay Harbour Commissioners have added their voice to objections, primarily over navigational concerns.
The Save Bantry Bay group, comprising residents, holidaymakers, tourism and environmental interests, met a Bantry Bay Harbour Commissioners sub-committee earlier this month to court support.
The €3.5 million project planned by Norwegian-owned Marine Harvest Ireland is part of a €14 million investment programme by the company over the next five years for its existing 16 aquaculture sites around the coast.
The company, which employs over 260 people in Donegal, Mayo and west Cork, has lodged an application with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine for aquaculture and foreshore licences for Shot Head.
The site, 8km east of its existing Roancarrig farm in Bantry Bay, will employ six people full-time during establishment, and another two when fully operational. The firm plans to commission a marine vessel from a local boatbuilder to service the farm.
It says that the Shot Head site would improve rotation of the fish crop and create a “world-class operation in the Beara peninsula which will secure the long-term future of the aquaculture industry in the area”.
However, the Save Bantry Bay group says that the consultation procedure has been “inadequate” and does not comply with public participation commitments recommended in the Bantry Bay Charter and outlined in the Cork county development plan.
It says that smolts from five salmon rivers running into Bantry Bay may be at risk of sea lice infestation, and says that the Shot Head location is “prime ground” for local commercial fishermen who may lose income.
The group says that Shot Head is an “integral part of the ‘natural capital’ of Bantry Bay”, which is noted for its water quality. It says that it has “not been proven” that the bay’s tidal and current movements will carry waste from the farm into the Atlantic.
Harbour commissioners’ chairman Michael Hennebry said his group had lodged an objection on grounds that the proposed location was too close to an anchorage point and to a pilot boarding location.
The commissioners have asked the department to take environmental factors into account when considering the application, he said.
Marine Harvest Ireland technical manager Catherine McManus said that there had been salmon farming in Bantry Bay since the 1970s, and the company had the “highest regard for this local environment and community”.
It was committed “to delivering this development in line with best environmental practice”, she said.
The Department of Agriculture,Food and the Marine said that “observations from the general public on foot of the period of public consultation are under active consideration by the department and its technical and scientific advisers at present”.
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