ANGLERS in West Limerick and North Kerry have been assured that a proposed super-size fish farm off the Galway coast, which it is feared could have disastrous consequences for fish life in the River Feale, does not have the support of Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) in its current form.
Local anglers have rallied their opposition to plans for a 456-hectare, 15,000-tonne salmon farm near Inis Órr over fears that it would lead to “an explosion” in parasitic sea lice, which would prey on wild inland salmon making their way to the North Atlantic to feed. A protest meeting of local fishing groups took place at the Strand Hotel in Limerick earlier this month.
It had been reported that IFI were backing the proposal, which has already received the support of the Government as it could see the creation of up to 350 jobs.
However an IFI spokesperson told the Limerick Leader that the authority, which is responsible for the conservation of fish life in Irish rivers, has “major concerns” about Bord Iascaigh Mhara’s plans as they are.
“We have major concerns about the location and scale [of the farm], as well as its potential impact on sea life. [IFI] is not supporting it in its current form”.
The spokesperson added that the authority is not opposed to “sustainable sea farming”, but is “unhappy” with sections of the super-farm’s environmental impact survey (EIS), which was open for public submissions until December 12.
Local opposition to the fish farm by groups such as the Brosna-Mountcollins Anglers is based on a recent study by the Royal Society of Biological Sciences, which found that an average of 39 out of 100 wild salmon are killed by sea lice during their feeding cycle.
Plummeting salmon stocks on the River Feale in recent years have reached crisis point in the eyes of many local angling clubs. Recent figures taken an official fish counter on the Feale near Listowel showed that in the first six months of 2012 there were just 1,055 salmon on the river, a fall of more than 50% from the same period in 2011.
Anglers fear that if the new fish farm is built, it will spark a huge growth in sea lice, which will decimate migrating salmon passing close to the farm in open water.