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Appeal is lodged against salmon farm planned for Bantry Bay

October 26th, 2015 5:05 PM

By Siobhan Cronin

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AN environmental group has lodged an appeal against a licence for a €3.5m salmon farm in Bantry Bay.

Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) have lodged the appeal against the granting of the licence to Marine Harvest Ireland (MHI), a multi-national company with offices in Donegal.

The site is at Shot Head in Bantry Bay, and will create eight sustainable long-term jobs post-construction.

MHI already operates a fish production site at Roancarrig on the western side of Bantry Bay.

In their appeal of the licence, which was granted a month ago, FIE call into question a number of issues which they believe were not adquately dealt with in the EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) which was filed by MHI, with the licence application. 

MHI first applied for this licence more than four years ago, in June 2011. The appeal, which was lodged this week with the Aquaculture Licences Appeals Board in Portlaoise, could take up to four months to decide, a ALAB spokesperson told The Southern Star.

The ALAB has the power to extend that time further, if more investigation is needed.

Among the concerns mentioned by the FIE in their appeal are what they call ‘significant’ errors in the EIS – including alleged misrepresentations regarding the length of coastline, and the prevailing wind direction.

In response, Marine Harvest told The Southern Star: ‘The licensing process is ongoing with regard to Shot Head. MHI has dealt comprehensively with all relevant issues as part of its application for an aquaculture licence. The Aquaculture Licences Appeals Board is the independent authority for the determination of appeals.’

Tony Lowes, an Eyeries-based director of FIE, has also claimed that suggestions that waste water from the salmon farm will pass directly out to the Atlantic are incorrect. The flow of currents in the Bay has not been investigated by the EIS, he says, adding a claim that the amount of Nitrogen emissions from the proposed plant would be equivalent to the amount of treated sewage despatched by a town of 58,000 people, making it an unsuitable development in the Bantry Bay area.

Furthermore, the appeal adds, there is no Local Area Management Scheme in place in Bantry Bay so, at this time, further development is premature. Changes in water temperature, combined with climate change, will increase presence of bloom in the seawater, the appeal says. This bloom will not be discharged to sea, as suggested by EIS, representing a threat to marine life in the Bay.

The appeal further states that the effect on marine habitats, of which Bantry Bay has some unique species, has not been adequately measured by the EIS, and the company’s survey of mammals and protected birds is also inadequate.

There is no assessment of the impact on seal colonies – in fact a reference to ‘seal scarers’ has been made in the EIS.

Mr Lowes says that as no alternative site has been proposed, this would suggest the area is already over-developed.

The appeal also suggests that the fishfarm may have a direct impact on the ‘unspoilt’ aspect of the area’s very valuable tourist industry. 

Salmon lice could have detrimental impact on five salmon rivers in area and there has been no mention made in the EIS of the impact of SLICE (lice treatment) if consumed by other wildlife in area.

Wild salmon and sea trout stocks will be put at risk by risk of lice and escape, the FIE says.

When the licence was initially granted, MHI said it was ‘extremely keen to begin work on this site as soon as possible’ with development at Shot Head likely to be complete ‘in just 14 weeks’.

If given the green light by the ALAB, that deadline is likely to be extended into spring or summer, as a result of the FIE appeal.

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