By BRIAN MOORE
IT has been over six years since Marine Harvest Ireland applied for and was granted a licence to develop a second salmon farm in Bantry Bay.
However, following many protests from both concerned local and national groups, an appeal was lodged with the Aquaculture Licences Appeals Board (ALAB) with the oral hearing section of the process taking place in Bantry recently. It gave individuals, groups and organisations an opportunity to make their concerns against the granting of a salmon farm licence known.
Alec O’Donovan, secretary of Save Bantry Bay said: ‘After the Department for Agriculture approved the licence in October 2016, ALAB received more appeals submitted than for any other aquaculture licence application in recent times.
‘Normally it would take four months for appeals to be reviewed and a final decision to be made. In this case we have had an oral hearing lasting four days, and are not expecting a final decision until the end of October at the very earliest.’
During the oral hearing, Marine Harvest Ireland submitted evidence focused on examining computer-generated hydrographic and sea lice dispersion models designed to prove the suitability of Bantry for a second salmon farm at Shot Head, near Adrigole on the Beara peninsula.
‘Marine Harvest has been as comprehensive and transparent as it can be in presenting our case for this new site and we continued to demonstrate that approach in this hearing,’ Catherine McManus, technical manager of Marine Harvest said.
‘There has been salmon farming in Bantry Bay since the 1970s, when local fishery interests first established the Roancarrig Salmon Farm. Over the last 40 years salmon farming has become a successfully integrated part of the local community in the region.’
Ms McManus also said that the proposed salmon farm development would initially create six full-time jobs during the farm set-up and a further two additional jobs when fully operational.
The company will also commission a marine vessel with a local ship builder to service the Shot Head site.
Local fisherman and chair of Save Bantry Bay, Kieran O’Shea, said that major concerns remain for those who for generations have lived, worked and supported their families from the waters of Bantry Bay.
‘We thank all the people we represent for their support over the last five-and-a-half years,’ Mr O’Shea said. ‘It has been a long journey, and we have had our voices heard. It is now up to ALAB to do the right thing. We believe there is reasonable scientific evidence that a salmon farm at Shot Head will have direct detrimental impacts on the local environment, and in turn the local economy. For this reason we hope our appeal is successful and the licence revoked.’
Ms McManus agreed that the process had indeed taken a very long time, but Marine Harvest is confident that their new salmon farm at Shot Head will be a world class example of Ireland’s growing aquaculture industry.
‘This application has been a long journey for Marine Harvest, we applied for this licence six years ago. The application was approved by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine in September 2015 and if that decision is upheld, the new site at Shot Head would vastly improve our operation in Bantry Bay by enabling rotation of the fish crop between the existing site and this new one. It would essentially create a world class operation in the Bay which is what we’re about,’ she said.