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Inquiry into ‘withholding’ of sea lice report widened

The Irish Times Mon, Oct 28, 2013, 14:02

Row centres on the prevalence of sea lice near salmon farms and their impact on wild salmon

The Office of the Ombudsman is to extend its inquiry into the Irish Government’s response to an EU Commission sea lice investigation.The Office of the Ombudsman is to extend its inquiry into the Irish Government’s response to an EU Commission sea lice investigation.

Tim O’Brien

The Office of the Ombudsman is to extend its inquiry into the Irish Government’s response to an EU Commission sea lice investigation.

The Ombudsman’s Office is already inquiring into the handling of questions put to the Department of Agriculture by the EU, on the prevalence of sea lice near salmon farms and their impact on wild salmon.

The inquiry followed a complaint by Friends of the Irish Environment that a key report from the State body Inland Fisheries Ireland had been withheld by the Department in its response to the EU.

The Ombudsman’s Office confirmed it has now extended that inquiry into the handling of the issue by the Department of Foreign Affairs which was the first port of call for the EU Commission inquiry.

The Commission has also asked for information on the allegations that the Inland Fisheries report was withheld, and has told MEP Nessa Childers it may reopen its original investigation.

At the centre of the row are plans by Bord Iascaigh Mhara to develop a number of large-scale salmon farms along the west coast, including a 456-hectare farm in the lee of the Aran Islands, in Galway Bay.

The Bord has drawn attention to a study by the State’s Marine Institute which claimed only 1 per cent of wild salmon fatalities are caused by the lice.

However fellow State agency Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) also produced a study which indicated that 39 per cent of wild salmon mortalities could be attributable to sea lice associated with fish farms.

While the merits of both studies are debated in the scientific community, Friends of the Irish Environment alleged that the Department of Agriculture suppressed the Inland Fisheries’ report, denying its existence.

The IFI report, which the environmental lobby group obtained under Access to Information on the Environment laws – and published on its website – was highly critical of the defence of salmon farming that the department was making to the Commission.

A new request to the Ombudsman’s Office for “Redress for Maladministration” was filed by Friends of the Irish Environment last month. It claimed the Department of Foreign Affairs failed to assign the responsibility for responding to the Commission to include Inland Fisheries Ireland, instead making the Department of Agriculture the sole agency in charge of responding to the investigation.

The Office has now said it will investigate this aspect of the ongoing row

New Norwegian Study :Interbreeding between farmed and wild salmon quantified

Republic of Ireland

Wild salmon. (Photo Credit: Helen Petersen)

Monday, October 21, 2013, 23:00

For the first time, scientists have managed to quantify how escaped salmon have interbred with wild salmon in Norwegian rivers. These results provide a basis for reassessing the impact that escapees from fish farms have on the wild salmon in Norwegian rivers.

Escapees are considered as one of the most serious environmental problems in the fish farming industry, and since the Atlantic salmon farming industry was established in the early 1970′s, there has been a long-standing debate about farmed escapees, and their genetic impacts on native populations.

“Methodological limitations have created insecurity on how big the problem is. However, we have now developed a stronger tool that can measure the percentage of farmed fish that has interbred,” says Kevin Glover, senior scientist at Institute of Marine Research in Norway (IMR).

Surveyed 20 rivers

To reach this answer, the scientists have investigated 20 rivers along the Norwegian coast. These rivers have been studied before and genetic changes in the native populations were discovered then. Introgression from escaped farmed fish were looked upon as the most probable cause at that time. However, now the scientists can confirm that farmed escapees are the reason.

This new knowledge generates a far better basis for measuring genetic changes taking place over generations because of farmed escapees. This method will become a useful tool to the managers.

“The new results show significant changes in five of the 20 native populations we have studied. We found the highest level of changes in Loneelva, Vosso and Opo, where the introgression rates vary from 31 to 47 per cent,” says Glover.

The models that have been used to quantify the introgression have so far revealed higher genetic impact on native populations than the empirical estimates from this study. Despite the fact that strong introgression has been observed in some of the rivers, the results show that in Norway we still have numerous populations of wild salmon that show low or moderate signs of change.

Former studies of spawning behaviour and survival of juveniles show that farmed salmon often looses in the competition with wild salmon in nature. The result is that the introgression is lower than expected from observations of the number of escapees in the rivers.

“We observe lower interbreeding in rivers with big, robust stocks of wild salmon than in rivers with less wild fish. Probably, the farmed fish looses the battle on the spawning grounds when there are large numbers wild fish present, while they have more success in rivers with low numbers of wild fish,” says Glover.

New method

A new genetic and statistic method developed by Norwegian scientists have generated these results. The method requires access to both new samples and old control samples from the same populations.

“For the first time in the international scientific world, someone has been able to establish a method where it is possible to quantify the genetic changes that happens over time and caused by introgression of farmed salmon,” says Glover.

Biological consequences?

The new method makes it possible to decide the extent of introgression by escaped farmed salmon. The next step is to develop methods to quantify the biological consequences of different levels of such introgression.

“Several national and international projects are working on this topic. However, it’s a time demanding work, which means that it might take years before we can see the results,” Glover underlines.

Source: IMR



Another worrying image from Norway

Avid angler and Irishman Daren Dunphy, now living in Norway has recently seen the salmon below being caught by river inspectors on his local river. Not a pretty site at all and one wonders what is being kept hidden from the consumer. This is what Daren had to say “if people saw how farmed salmon looked before they hit the shops do you think they would eat it ?” . We think not! This egg laden fish had it not been caught, would have been a very real threat to wild stocks due to cross breeding and the resultant weakening of the unique genetic structure of the salmon from that river. Hybridization results in increased marine mortality rates as the off spring are less hardy than the wild stocks.

Irish Times : Jellyfish ‘bloom’ kills thousands of farmed salmon off Co Mayo

Losses also reported at sites off Donegal

Jellyfish Pelagia noctiluca (mauve stingers), which have been abundant from Dingle to Donegal in recent weeks. Photograph: Declan QuigleyJellyfish Pelagia noctiluca (mauve stingers), which have been abundant from Dingle to Donegal in recent weeks. Photograph: Declan Quigley

Lorna Siggins


First published:Mon, Oct 21, 2013, 01:00

Up to 20,000 farmed salmon have been lost due to a jellyfish “bloom” off Clare island, Co Mayo.

Aquaculture company Marine Harvest has said the losses occurred off Clare Island in the past few days, due to warmer sea temperatures which have seen similar occurrences at fish farms across Europe.

An “accelerated” harvest also occurred at its sea water sites in Donegal to try and avoid the impact of jellyfish blooms on the farmed stock.

The company could not confirm the numbers of fish lost off Clare Island, but said they were substantial.

The Norwegian company, which has 14 sea water aquaculture sites on the Irish west coast, has already been taking precautionary measures – feeding fish less to keep them less active, with gill covers closed – due to the marked rise in reporting strandings of jellyfish from Donegal to Kerry.

Strandings of thousands of Pelagia noctiluca or Mauve stinger occurred in Ballyferriter, Dingle in late August, and in Donegal early last month.

It was this species which inflicted losses worth over €1 million at a fish farm in Glenarm Bay, Co Antrim, in 2007 when some 120,000 fish died.

That same season of 2007, there was an “exceptional abundance” of jellyfish from the Porcupine Bank right up to Rockall, according to Dr Tom Doyle of University College Cork’s Coastal and Marine Resources Centre, who was at sea at the time.

Continuous plankton recording during marine research can detect jellyfish material, and it is hoped that some data may be collected during the Marine Institute’s autumn groundfish surveys off the west coast.

However, Dr Doyle has said it is very difficult to confirm if this year is exceptional. He also says that some 15 to 20 years of data would be required before one could conclude that it was a cyclical occurrence, or an increase due to warming temperatures and/or acidification of seas.

Dr Doyle curates the Big Jellyfish Hunt on Facebook, and was part of the EcoJel project, an EU-funded initiative involving UCC and Swansea University which noted a slight overall increase in biomass trends of jellyfish in the Irish Sea over 15 years.

Link to article


Lice infested fish caught by Norwegian angler

The shocking image above is of a sea lice infested salmon caught by Svein Ingvar Opdalingen in the Guddalselva in Kvinnherad where he lives. The fish also seems to have a fungal infection on its head. Since September, there has been an increased number of escaped salmon in the river and heavy infestations of sea lice have been observed in both wild and farmed fish. There have not been any reported escapes from nearby Tucumcari which would suggest that the escaped salmon are from other open net cage farms.

The suggestion that sea lice are becoming more resistant to chemical treatments is evident in the photos and there are obvious implications for wild salmon and sea trout. Svein stated that as long as the industry continues to have high faming density in Hardanger Fjord, the infestation of sea lice will persist. The industry is given fines if lice levels are above permitted levels but the infestation problem is not solved. The Norwegian Food Safety Authority (NFSA) has in the last number of weeks ordered the mass cull of 940,000 farmed salmon.

Five Norwegian salmon producers are mass-slaughtering some 8,000 metric tons of salmon from their pens in an area north of Vikna, central Norway, due to high lice levels. Three of those, Marine Harvest, Emilsen Fisk and Midt-Norsk Havbruk, are rushing to empty some 5,000 metric tons within deadlines set by the (NFSA). In late August, the authority had informed these three producers that they would have to slaughter all their salmon in the area, after all other measures to counter the lice infestation failed.

NFSA has ordered the producers to slaughter all their fish, or face a fine of approximately NOK 100,000 per day, for every day extending beyond the deadline. Under Norwegian regulations, when a farm first exceeds its lice level limit, NFSA orders it to address the situation using all delousing methods available. Failing which, as in this case, the authority orders the affected pens to be emptied of all fish.


On-land Danish salmon farm nears first harvest; inks deal with Nissui

October 18, 2013, 9:22 am

Recirculation aquaculture system (RAS) farmer Danish Salmon plans to harvest its first batch of entirely land-raised fish in 2014, with production already sold to a subsidiary of Nippon Suisan Kaisha (Nissui).

The farm, located in Hirtshals, Denmark, expects to harvest its first 2,000 metric tons of salmon, grown from egg to 4.5kg in around 21 months, in September 2014. The first batch has already been purchased by Nordic Seafood.

Fish have actually grown faster than anticipated in the enclosed system, said Soren Frandsen, manager of Danish Salmon, speaking at Denmark’s first ever ‘Farmer’s Day’ aquaculture event.

While construction of the site is still being completed, even as fish move through the system – the furthest advanced are at 47g in the pre-smolt/ smolt stages – expansions are planned. First to 4,000t and, if the land around the current plant is available to buy, to 6,000t later, said Frandsen.

It is still early in production, but the project manager confirmed the company would look to brand its uniquely-farmed salmon with its own name. The product is targeted at Japan, the US and Russia, he added.

Danish Salmon is a DKK 100 million ($18.1m) undertaking, with the government contributing DKK 23.8m and energy company Nord Energi adding DKK 1m.

Once up and running, the plant is designed to harvest 45t of salmon each week, with five batches of eggs put in each year, at 10 week intervals.

The enormous facility recirculates 13,000 cubic meters of water an hour, for 2000t of salmon, at a density of 80 to 90k per cubic meter. Grow-out tanks are 16m in diameter, and there are eight of them under the facility’s roof.

Given the biosecurity of an RAS, vaccination may not have been necessary – however, given that this was a DKK 100m investment, Danish Salmon played it safe and vaccinated its fish just in case, said Frandsen.

The wrong kind of salmon shows up in a New Brunswick river.

CTV Atlantic
Published Tuesday, October 15, 2013 6:18PM ADT

You would think a large appearance of Atlantic salmon in a river where the fish had virtually disappeared would be cause for celebration.

Not so in New Brunswick, where the wrong kind of salmon are showing-up and no one knows precisely where they’re coming from.

Jonathan Carr pulled a six kilogram Atlantic Salmon out of a fish ladder on the Magaguadavic River Tuesday.

Five others were caught today, almost 80 this month alone.

The problem is, they’re not supposed to be there.

They are escapes from salmon farms, and Carr fears it means thousands of farmed salmon are infiltrating rivers along the Bay of Fundy.

“There’s dozens of other rivers in the Gulf of Maine, outer Bay of Fundy, inner Bay of Fundy, where these fish have free access right now,” explains Atlantic Salmon Federation Biologist Jonathon Carr.

So far, no one has reported a large escape of farmed salmon.

The Fish Farmers Association says it has a good record in preventing farm escapes.

It says the evidence in this case does not suggest one huge escape from a salmon cage.

“In this case, it appears we have fish of a variety of different sizes of fish,” says Pamela Parker of the Atlantic Canada Fish Farmers Association. “Which seems to indicate that they would have come from a variety of farms.”

Scientists say the movement of large numbers of farmed salmon up a river like the Magaguadavic is nothing short of pollution, in this case, genetic pollution, and it threatens efforts to re-stock the river with wild fish.

It only takes one or two escapes entering the fresh water to spawn or interbreed with the wild fish to have disastrous consequences,” explains Carr.

Companies are supposed to report escapes involving more than 100 fish.

They can face hefty fines for allowing large numbers of fish to escape.

Biological samples are being taken from the escapes in an effort to trace the fish to a specific farm.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Mike Cameron

Read more:

We Are What We Eat: The Hidden Costs of Farmed Salmon

Alex Mifflin

Co-host, The Water Brothers  Posted: 10/14/2013 8:45 pm

Salmon seems to be the perfect food — very tasty, high in protein and healthy Omega-3 fatty acids, and easy to prepare and cook. But as with every other overfished species in the sea, there simply aren’t enough of them left in the wild to meet our growing demand. It seems that whenever humans really like a particular type of fish, that popularity guarantees a rapid decline in their population. In the Atlantic Ocean, wild salmon stocks have already been depleted and studies show that wild Pacific salmon stocks are also declining.

Humans have done this before with species like cod. Now the only way we can meet our voracious appetite for salmon is to farm them by “aquaculture.” Amazingly, about 70 per cent of all the salmon we now eat are raised on fish farms. However, there are hidden costs of salmon farming that most consumers never see. Many people are not even aware that they are eating farmed salmon, let alone understand its many negative environmental impacts. I believe it’s important for people to understand how what they eat is produced so they can make the best choices for their families and the environment.

Farmed salmon spend the majority of their lives in mesh net cages in the open ocean. Their waste and fecal matter flows freely into surrounding waters, often smothering the seafloor and the marine life there. A small salmon farm of 200,000 fish can produce as much fecal matter per year as a city of 62,000 people. But unlike cities and some land-based livestock farms, the waste from salmon farms is never contained or treated.

In addition to fecal matter, antibiotics and pesticides that are occasionally added into salmon feeds can also flow into surrounding waters and be consumed by wild salmon and other fish species that do not need to be medicated.

While salmon farms can do harm to any marine ecosystem where they are located, the most serious concerns arise on Canada’s West Coast where the bulk of Canadian farmed salmon is produced. Ironically, salmon farms in British Columbia almost exclusively raiseAtlantic salmon because these salmon grow better in crowded farm conditions.

Since Atlantic salmon are not native to the Pacific, when they escape from the mesh net pens they are an invasive species and can displace wild salmon species by reproducing and consuming their natural food supply. Between 1987 and 2008, over 1.5-million Atlantic salmon escaped into the Pacific Ocean from salmon farms in B.C. and thousands more continue to escape each year.

As water flows freely in and out of salmon pens, it also means that parasites, diseases and viruses can easily be transferred between wild and farmed populations. While salmon farmers claim to have control over the spread of diseases, indications are that they are not fully capable of controlling infections.

The biggest concern now is the possibility of farmed Atlantic salmon spreading a foreign Atlantic salmon disease known as ISA into wild Pacific salmon populations. The same Norwegian companies that operate in Canada have already spread ISA to Chile, nearly collapsing the entire salmon farming industry in the country. However, Chile does not have wild salmon. If ISA ever spreads into wild Pacific salmon populations in Canada, the results could be even more devastating for both the wild Pacific salmon stocks and marine ecosystems.

Wild Pacific salmon are simply too valuable to Canada and the entire coastal B.C. ecosystem to take any risks which could endanger this critical resource. Coincidentally, the same government department that is responsible for preserving wild salmon is also responsible for promoting farmed salmon. Since many of the farms are foreign owned, mainly by Norway, Canadians have an interest in what happens to our resources.

Thankfully, there is a solution to these problems: simply move open-ocean salmon farms onto land-based closed containment systems. The technology already exists, but the industry is reluctant to make this significant shift due to the massive, one-time capital outlay needed to convert. But some smaller-scale entrepreneurs are already proving thatclosed containment is working very well.

That said, however exciting the possibility of widespread use of land-based containment systems is, the biggest flaw of salmon farming remains: the use of large quantities of smaller, wild fish used to feed the farmed salmon.

The main reason carnivorous salmon are so nutritious is because they eat other fish packed full of nutrients. To produce one kilogram of farmed salmon, they must be fed around 1.2 to 3 kilograms of wild fish. As wild fish stocks continue to be depleted worldwide and we look to aquaculture as the future of seafood, the solution should never involve feeding farmed salmon a diet of wild fish that contributes to the depletion of wild fish stocks.

If we do insist on farming salmon in this country, let’s do it in the most responsible manner: on land, in closed systems. Let’s spread the word!

Alex Mifflin and brother Tyler Mifflin host the award-winning eco-adventure series, The Water Brothers, exploring the world’s most important water stories. The second season airs Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m. from September 10 – October 22 on TVO and Learn more about farmed salmon and its impacts in “Farmed and Dangerous,” the next episode of The Water Brothers airing October 15.

Inland Fisheries Ireland stand over findings of socio-economic study

Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) stands over all of the findings in the recent Socio-economic Study of Recreational Angling in Ireland following erroneous reports in certain elements of the media which suggested that the value of recreational salmon angling was overstated in the study.

The principal results of this study, which was published in July 2013, estimate that recreational angling in Ireland contributes €755 million to the Irish economy and supports in excess of 10,000 jobs in peripheral and rural area.

The results in this report are based on sound economic principles. The report was compiled by industry experts Tourism Development International (TDI) who are a renowned and widely  respected professional consultancy company .The work team included Dr Stephen Hynes of the Socio-Economic Marine Research Unit of NUIG.  Professor Brendan Whelan, the Former Director of the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), provided direction and assistance in the design of the survey and review of the report and findings.

Regrettably it appears that inaccurate extrapolations from the study data prepared and published by a Scottish Aquaculture blog, has underpinned a complete misunderstanding and misrepresentation of the findings of the study which was used by a lobby group in a recent communication to the media.

The full study is available to view and download at


Media enquiries: Suzanne Campion ,Head of Business Development, Inland Fisheries Ireland,
Anglesea Street, Clonmel, Co. Tipperary.Tel: 052 6180055 Fax: 052 6123971; Website:

Inland Fisheries Ireland is a statutory body operating under the aegis of the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources and was established under the Fisheries Act on 1st July 2010. Its principal function is the protection and conservation of the inland fisheries resource. IFI promotes, supports, facilitates and advises the Minister on, the conservation, protection, management, development and improvement of inland fisheries, including sea angling. It also develops and advises the Minister on policy and national strategies relating to inland fisheries and sea angling.

NSFAS meet Nessa Childers MEP

Nessa Childers meeting 2.


NSFAS Chairman Paddy Keenan and PRO Damien O’Brien were back in Dublin today, this time to meet Nessa Childers MEP in the European Parliament office on Molesworth Street. Ms.Childers kindly agreed to meet with the NSFAS delegation to discuss the controversial proposals by the Irish government to develop the aquaculture industry around our coast despite overwhelming opposition. Various issues were discussed including the negative impact on existing employment levels in the angling tourism industry, which Inland Fisheries Ireland have recently stated supports up to 10,000 jobs with a value to the state of €750m. The negative impact to our environment and wild stocks as a result of increased industrialization of our pristine coastal environment was high on the agenda. We would like to thank Nessa for giving us the opportunity to meet with her today and look forward to working with her on this issue over the coming months.