Damien Enright, author, journalist and veteran environmentalist, who wrote a series of beautiful books on West Cork (and elsewhere), comments in today´s Irish Examiner:
Salmon farming a threat to sea life
By Damien Enright
Monday, April 16, 2012
THE dry weather continues and we have Ireland to ourselves.
The roads are free of tour buses and tourist traffic. We can drive around the Ring of Kerry clockwise or anticlockwise, as we please.
The two last weeks in March delivered warm sunlight all day long. Now, in April, this sometimes turns to cold sunlight and sharp, clear weather, great for walking once one warms up. The nights are clear, with stars sparkling like frost fires in the heavens; I suppose some are made entirely of ice.
Daylight stays late. From our balcony I listen to a thrush singing in the evening silence. Below me, the grey heron wanders across the courtyard, almost invisible against the gravel. It has the appearance of an éminence grise but is as innocuous as a domestic hen.
The first stars come out above me. When will nature go to bed, I wonder, the songsters abandon their arias, and the heron fly off to roost in the tall trees? As I write, I’m suddenly interrupted by an emergency call from our youngest son celebrating his 25th birthday on an idyllic Thai island in the Andaman Sea. An urgent tsunami warning has sent him, his partner and the island’s entire population fleeing the beaches for the high, central hills.
Located north of the Malacca Straits and 200 miles from Banda Aceh, Sumatra, off which a huge undersea earthquake struck four hours before, the island was the location of a cult film called The Beach.
My wife and I consult atlases and the internet to find out how high the central ridge rises above sea level. It is reassuringly high; they will be safe.
An older son was in Thailand when the 2004 tsunami struck. Fortunately, he was on the relatively safe east coast, while the Andaman coast and islands were devastated.
The sea more often delivers life than death but must be respected. A great number of folk living around Dunmanus Bay and Bantry Bay in west Cork fear that their local sea is about to be abused. Marine Harvest, a Norwegian multinational operating in Norway, Scotland, Canada, the Faroe Island, Chile and Ireland, have applied to the Department of the Marine to establish a 100-acre salmon farm at Shot Head, Adrigole.
Local fishermen claim the farm would exclude them from some important grounds for shrimp and prawn. Bantry has, long since, been a tourist gem of west Cork but studies show visitors do not linger in areas where fish farms spoil the natural beauty. Mussel farms already impact on the vast, wild vista of the bay, into which five salmon rivers flow.
Save Bantry Bay campaigners are especially concerned about the impact of sea lice on the wild salmon that use these rivers; they say research shows that almost half of the wild salmon populations were lost in bays with salmon farms, and that the faeces from the projected Shot Head production of 2,700 tons of fish a year would equate to untreated sewage from a city of 47,000 people entering Bantry Bay.
Marine Harvest strongly disputes these environmental concerns. “Our fish stocks are managed in such a way as to mitigate against sea lice infestations … We believe that the proposal … will cause no material or consequential negative impact on Bantry Bay. The wind, wave and current in Bantry Bay is believed to be such that it will dilute and disperse any waste.”
In a comprehensive Irish Examiner article on Mar 12 by Claire O’Sullivan, this contention was fiercely disputed by Tony Lowes of Friends of the Irish Environment who says, “Tidal effects are weak … and produce only very limited circulation and water exchange.”
Dr Paddy Gargan of Inland Fisheries Ireland says protection areas should be created, similar to the National Salmon Fjords in Norway where salmon fish farming is restricted or prohibited.
At a recent public meeting in Glengarriff, Alec O’Donovan, secretary of the Bantry Salmon and Trout Anglers, warned: “When the Norwegian fjords were damaged due to salmon farming, the industry moved to low regulation third-world countries where they had a devastating effect on the local environment. When even these countries rejected this polluting industry, they turn toIreland with our own low regulations. We can’t let it continue.”
One hopes our Government will regulate and not allow something the Norwegians would not allow at home.