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Call on Minister over salmon farm ‘wipe-out’

category national | environment | press release author Monday March 03, 2014 22:33author by Friends of Irish Environment Report this post to the editors

Press Release


Call on Minister over salmon farm ‘wipe-out’

Simon Coveney is being asked to give the figures of the escapees from the recent storm damage to a salmon farm in Bantry Bay. A written parliamentary question tabled by Clare Daly, TD, is due for reply later this week.

According to the west cork based Friends of the Irish Environment, the farm has effectively been ‘wiped out’.

In a statement released today, the group said that they ‘understand that there are only between 3,000 and 5,000 fish left at a site that held between 160,000 – 180,000 salmon.’

‘Simon Coveney should have known about the extent of the loses since the fish were moved and counted on 19 February and yet his Department is silent on the subject.’

The storm on February 1, 2014, saw a cage break loose from its mooring and upend itself into another cage, according to local group Save Bantry Bay [SBB].

SBB, which had originally estimated the escape at 60,000 to 80,000, said that after the count on 19 February they understood that the farm had been ‘virtually wiped out’. Secretary Alex O’Donovan explained that the physical damage to the cages was more extensive than appeared at first and the continuing stormy conditions prevented any immediate repair. ‘While Save Bantry Bay has great sympathy for the owners and employees of the fish farm, this incident entirely justifies our group’s position against the further expansion of salmon farming in the Bay.’

Environmentalists are concerned over the impact of these and other escaped farmed fish on Irish native salmon. FIE points out that ‘Published peer reviewed research shows that between 1996-2004, 415,000 salmon escaped from Irish salmon farms.’

‘This research shows that these fish can interbreed with native stocks, lessening their chances of survival and out competing native salmon for habitat and breeding locations. Escaped farmed salmon may inflate catchbased spawning stock estimates to such an extent that the stock appears either to be healthy or recovering, the consequences of which are that conservation measures are either relaxed or not strengthened, or new measures not being introduced.’ (1)

‘While overall occurrences of escapees are generally low, high incidence of escapees can overwhelm single native river stocks, especially where these native stocks are already stressed and limited, as is the case in Bantry Bay. Recently published research in Norway has shown that farmed salmon can compose up to 47% of a river’s salmon population.’ [2]

FIE has written to Minister at State Fergus O’Dowd asking him to facilitate a voluntary scale sampling genotype scheme on all Irish rivers this summer to determine the level of escaped fish in Irish salmon rivers.

A group spokesman said that there was an existing database of all Irish salmon rivers and their populations. ‘It is a simple matter for anglers to take a single scale sample even in rivers restricted to catch and release. By genotyping these samples they can be compared with genetic database held of the salmon in the 146 Irish salmon rivers. We will then a have better understanding of what percentage of what appear to be wild salmon are in fact of farmed salmon stock with ova originally imported from Norway.’

The research on this issue indicates that ‘The frequency and severity of autumn/winter storms has increased during the past 50 years, and this trend is predicted to continue into the twenty-first century because of climate change. Thus, numerically significant loss events from farms may become more frequent in the future.’ [1]

Secretary, Save Bantry Bay, Alec O’Donovan, 087 7949227 (mobile) or 027 50508
Chair, Save Bantry Bay, Kieran O’Shea, 086 1280303 (mobile) or 027 60121
Director, Friends of the Irish Environment , Tony Lowes, 087 2176316 (mobile) or 027 74771


Editors Notes:
(1) Monitoring the incidence of escaped farmed Atlantic salmon, Salmo salar L., in rivers and fisheries of the United Kingdom and Ireland: current progress and recommendations for future programmes

[2] Atlantic salmon populations invaded by farmed escapees: quantifying genetic introgression with a Bayesian approach and SNPs


Fergus O’Dowd, TD,
Minister at State,
Department of Communications, Energy, and Natural Resources,
28 February, 2014

By email only: minister.o'

Re: Genotyping for escaped farmed salmon: request for voluntary scheme

Dear Minister;

We would be grateful if you would facilitate a voluntary scheme enabling licensed anglers to take scale samples during the current season for genotyping to compare the with genetic database held of the salmon in the 146 Irish salmon rivers to assist in estimating the percentage of the population which contains farmed salmon genes.

You will be aware of peer reviewed published work which gives the number of escapees in Irish rivers during the period 1996 – 2004 as 415,000 and research in other jurisdictions suggesting that introgression of farmed escaped salmon in a wild population can be as high as 47%.

The storm damage on 1 February, 2014 at a salmon farm in Bantry Bay refers.

Yours, etc,
Tony Lowes


Monitoring the incidence of escaped farmed Atlantic salmon, Salmo salar L., in rivers and fisheries of the United Kingdom and Ireland: current progress and recommendations for future programmes

Atlantic salmon populations invaded by farmed escapees: quantifying genetic introgression with a Bayesian approach and SNPs

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