The proposed salmon farm for Shot Head won’t just provide much-needed jobs to a very rural area, it will be included in new Blueway tours of Bantry Bay, local supporters tell Brian Moore
WITH the oral hearing into the proposed Marine Harvest salmon farm at Shot Head about to resume later this month, three community groups from Castletownbere and Eyeries have come together to lend support to the project.
Speaking to The Southern Star recently, Jim O’Sullivan from Beara Tourism, noted the importance of the potential jobs for the area.
‘There has been fish farming here for over 40 years,’ Jim said. ‘We’ve had everything from mussels, oysters, salmon and trout, and the industry has been good to the people who live in this area. We believe that Marine Harvest’s new salmon farm will not only be a positive influence on fishing industry on Beara, but will also provide more employment opportunities for the local population.’
Marine Harvest Ireland already has two salmon farms operating in the waters off Beara. The first one, sited just off Eyeries, has 11 cages, while the second salmon farm at Roancarrig in Bantry Bay, has another 24 cages.
Each cage can hold between 40,000 to 60,000 salmon, and with the company’s intention to place another 18 cages at Shot Head, also in Bantry Bay, many local environmental, tourism and residents groups have suggested this is a move too far.
But O’Sullivan disagrees: ‘At the moment Beara Tourism is putting together plans for a ‘Blueway’ and with this tourists will, with the support of Marine Harvest Ireland, be able to take a tour of the salmon farm at Roancarrig, as part of a kayak safari,’ he said.
‘Also, at the moment Marine Harvest is landing their salmon at Castletownbere and then shipping them all the way to Donegal for processing. With their new farm at Shot Head, we would like to see a processing plant here on the Beara – this would mean more jobs and more people living in our communities.’
Sue Swansborough of the Eyeries Family Festival agreed: ‘Speaking on behalf of my community in Eyeries, Marine Harvest has also had a very positive effect on our area. The company sponsors our festival every year, and they have been nothing but open and helpful about their operations. They take boat tours out to the fish farm to let people see exactly what they are doing and, while Marine Harvest is an important part of our festival, they are also a vital part of everyday life in Eyeries.’
Sue explained how the community in Eyeries and indeed the surrounding areas have benefited because of having the salmon farm there.
‘We have more families living in or around Eyeries now simply because there is more work. Most of these people would have had to move away to find jobs and with that our school, post office and shops would all have suffered,’ she said. ‘When the salmon farm came to Eyeries it revitalised the community. In these days when rural Ireland is seeing a lot of people leaving for the urban centres to find jobs, we are happy that our community is not, like many towns and villages up and down the west coast, struggling to survive.’
Another local organisation that welcomes the proposed new fish farm at Shot Head is the Castletownbere Development Association. ‘With the fishing port continuing to grow and develop, another Marine Harvest operation in this area will only add to business and community life here in Castletownbere,’ Cian Murphy said. ‘Marine Harvest are now investing in people, and I know a lot of my friends who would have moved away are now enrolling at the BIM fishery centre and college with a view to getting work in the fishing industry, and it is Marine Harvest Ireland that is funding this opportunity. Marine Harvest is showing people that there are career opportunities and skills progression available in this area.’
While all three community representatives understood and could relate to the objections put forward by those groups who are against the Shot Head plan, they feel that the fish farming industry is highly regulated and monitored. ‘There has been aquaculture been going on in this area for many decades, it is a highly regulated industry and the companies involved can’t do whatever they want without the proper monitoring and inspections by the authorities. A clean environment is vital to us all, not just one section of the community. But we need to find a middle ground,’ Sue said.