I read in two recent issues about the proposed licence for mechanical kelp harvesting in Bantry Bay being passed and the Marine Harvest licence for 12 new salmon cages also passed subject to conditions.
Salmon farming has a huge environmental impact, but is being promoted by the government as a major export, whereas seaweed farming licences – which is intrinsically benign to the environment – are put on the long finger. At the same time the license to harvest wild kelp has been issued over an area of 1,860 acres.
There is an anomaly here. In Canada, a major producer of farmed salmon, research has shown that it is beneficial to grow 10 acres of seaweed to every acre of fish farm in order to absorb the detritus and clean the water. In Bantry Bay we now have a situation where the minister, Damien English, sees fit to remove annually 60 times the area of kelp to the area of the new salmon farm. These kelp beds are also host to the dulse, one of our most valuable sea vegetables, as well as playing a key role in the ecology of the bay.
In the last 40 years, having worked on local fishing boats in the late 1970s, I have witnessed the demise of wild salmon and the whole spectrum of sea life in these once so fertile waters, where there could have been a sustainable local fishing industry for generations to come given sound management. Now the fishing industry is on its knees and aquaculture is the new money earner.
Is this also going to be managed for short-term profit rather than a long-term sustainable future?