As a nation, we pride ourselves on being able to punch above our weight due to the talent and education of our people. Yet when it comes to the topic of salmon farming, we insist on being both a Luddite and a laggard.
Richie Flynn, Executive of IFA’s aquaculture division refers to land based closed containment for salmon aquaculture as “bizarre”, suggesting it is akin to “dairy farming on the moon”(March 25th).
Contrast this flat-earth approach to innovation with the forward thinking approach of the Canadian Government. This month, the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans presented the “Closed Containment Salmon Aquaculture Report” to the Canadian houses of parliament(Parliament of Canada publications and responses, http://www.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?DocId=5994887 The committee recognised that “any commercial adoption of closed containment aquaculture or other innovative aquaculture technologies will require public and private financial support to complete research and ultimately to allow promising new and viable technologies to advance from demonstration to commercialisation. Therefore, the Committee recommends that the Government of Canada, in conjunction with industry, review the financing options to ensure that resources are available to close the commercialization gaps. The Committee further recommends that the government-industry review considers a dedicated fund for closed containment demonstration projects.” In conclusion of the report, the Committee stated it “is optimistic that ongoing pilot projects will demonstrate the commercial viability of closed containment technology for salmon aquaculture”.
Richie says that salmon farming at sea makes sense economically, biologically and environmentally. As Morrisons Supermarket chain in the UK offer whole farmed salmon at £2 per fish this week, it is not economically sensible. With diseases like infectious salmon anaemia(ISA) and amoebic gill disease (IGD) plaguing the industry, it is not biologically sensible. With sea-lice infestations, escapees, salmon faeces and chemical treatments entering our seas from the industry, it is not environmentally sensible. What makes perfect sense is to provide a pristine environment for our wild Atlantic salmon to thrive, given a wild fish is worth over €400 to the tourism sector.
Unfortunately, here in Ireland, we are about to embark on spending tens of millions of taxpayers’ money on the expansion of salmon farming at sea: a technology that is being wound down by all of the major countries in the sector. Most reasonable, forward thinking people in Ireland would welcome the growth in our aquaculture sector in a sustainable fashion. Given the importance of sustainable jobs and our brand as an exporter of tourism and food, can we lead, rather than follow, on this issue?
No Salmon Farms At Sea