Stop Salmon Farming in the Ballynahinch River Estuary

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    Irish Minister for agriculture, Mr Brendan Smith. [email protected]
  • Sponsored By:
    Members of Roundstone Angling Club
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We the undersigned protest about the resumption of salmon farming in the estuary at Ballynahinch.

Until the late 1980s the Ballynahinch System in Connemara, Ireland was regarded as the best sea trout fishery in Ireland with up to 5,500 sea trout and 500 salmon being caught annually.

The introduction of salmon farming in the estuary at Ballynahinch in 1988 destroyed the stocks of both salmon and sea trout. Annual sea trout rod catches collapsed from 5,500 to 100 whilst the salmon catch fell from 500 to 50. The sea lice emanating from these salmon farms have been proven to be the cause of this utter decimation of the wild stock of salmonids. The population of these tiny creatures, which naturally occur in the wild, exploded due to the massive increase in available hosts (ie over one million salmon in up to 30 open pens in the estuary). The migrating salmon and trout were attacked by sea lice as soon as they went into the seawater and died as a direct result of the infection or from secondary skin infections due to the breakdown of their immune barrier.

Over the period 1988-2004, the salmon farm went bankrupt 3 times incurring huge financial losses, despite massive government grants. In 2004 the salmon operation ceased and a cod farming operation commenced in the Ballynahinch estuary with a 3 year trial licence. Cod aquaculture does not propagate the harmful salmon louse that has proved so detrimental to the wild stocks at Ballynahinch and other parts of Ireland. From 2004 until 2008, the sea trout rod catches at Ballynahinch improved from 100 to 1,500 and the salmon catches have increased from 50 to 270.

Incredibly, in October 2008, the sudden reintroduction of salmon farming to Bertraghboy Bay (the bay into which the Ballynahinch River flows) shocked anglers worldwide and will certainly result in a repeat of the situation experienced at Ballynahinch in the late 1980s as the sea lice will definitely cause a collapse in the wild fish stocks. It is without doubt that the resurgence in the wild salmon and sea trout seen over the past four years will be wiped out when the fish migrate from Ballynahinch to the estuary in the spring of 2009.

This situation cannot be allowed to continue. The Irish Government cannot sit back and watch as another environmental disaster unfolds. This impending catastrophe can be stopped if the Irish Government stops the resumption of salmon farming in the estuary. The value of a wild fishery in terms of recreational angling and related tourism income far outweighs the unviable, fundamentally flawed industry that is salmon farming in the Ballynahinch estuary.

We ask that the Irish Government takes immediate steps to outlaw salmon farming in this estuary.