Marine Harvest Ireland (MHI) has defended its decision to extract water from a Connemara lake to treat farmed salmon in nearby sea cages for a potentially fatal gill disorder.
In a statement to Inshore Ireland, the company stands over its actions that necessitated the laying of a 3km temporary pipeline through which freshwater was pumped from Loch an Or to a wellboat, which in turn delivered it to the cages near Ardmore.
Salmon cages at Ard Mhóir
Describing the action as ‘short-term, and taken on the advice of aquaculture veterinary surgeons’, MHI says it ‘should be seen as an urgent and essential measure to save the lives of its fish stocks’.
The statement also confirms that on July 24th last, it had applied to Galway County Council for temporary planning permission to retain the above ground water delivery pipe.
‘Due to the urgent nature of the situation and the potential negative impact on the welfare of the fish stocks, Marine Harvest was duty bound to treat the affected fish with freshwater, pending the decision by Galway County Council.’
MHI claims their actions were necessary on grounds of livestock health and welfare issues and as such should be seen as an ‘emergency’, adding there could have been serious financial and socio-economic consequences if the treatments had been stopped for any reason.
‘Up to 60 direct jobs rely on the survival of these fish stocks. Fifteen on the actual farm and 45 in the processing and packing plant, with up to 40 more in the downstream value-added smoking and portioning plants preparing the product for export.
‘The treatment itself is natural, simple, environmentally-friendly and sustainable, in keeping with Marine Harvest Ireland’s organic standards. The process will have no impact on domestic water supply’.
Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) has challenged MHI’s actions and has sought a High Court Injunction against the company, demanding that it remove the pipeline and restore the site to its natural condition. FIE’s injunction comes after Galway County Council ruled that the development was unauthorised and required planning permission.
The environmental group maintains that in spite of this, the Council has taken no action and Marine Harvest has applied for retention of their pipeline. FIE says that this application is invalid, “as retention cannot be sought when a development requires assessment under European law.”
“Marine Harvest is gaming the system,” FIE Director, Tony Lowes contends.
“We believe they have support from the highest levels and that neither the Council nor Irish Water will take any action against this multinational, in spite of the threat to public water supplies in the area.”
Highlighting the “environmental importance of the area” Lowes added that two salmon rivers enter this bay and that the seabed at Ardmore Point hosts rare corals and anemones. He cites research by the Heritage Council and by the National Parks and Wildlife Service that shows protected birds, vulnerable to the slightest disturbances, nest along the coastline.
“Kilkieran Bay is one of two most valuable coastal sites in Ireland. It is madness to run pipelines across the area to support an industrial- size fish farm,” Mr Lowes said.
Amoebic Gill Disease is a naturally occurring condition that often affects young salmon soon after they are transferred to seawater. It is caused by microscopic organisms called Amoeba. These are naturally part of the plankton and can often ‘bloom’ during periods of warm weather.
The most effective and natural method of removing amoeba from the gills is to immerse affected fish in pure fresh water for up to three hours. This action kills the amoeba.