Regulation of Aquaculture: Galway Conference Presentations


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Caherdaniel, County Kerry, Ireland
The annual conference of Salmon Watch Ireland took place on the 18 February in Galway with each of the presenters outlining their perspectives relating to aquaculture and its regulation. The conference was attended by over 70 delegates who represented academics, legal profession, fishery owners and managers, state agencies, anglers and conservationists.

A number of presentations are available to view at Presentations SWIRL Conference

The Inland Fisheries Presentation will be available at a later date. The presentation was a very concise look at how our salmon stocks are in decline and will be available after publication of a scientific report containing much of the data displayed. Dr. Ciaran Byrne and Dr. Paddy Gargan answered questions related to the presentation in a very open manner. The situation is concerning and despite many gains regarding water quality and huge reductions in exploitation, the situation continues to decline. A small improvement appears to have happened in 2016 but overall trend is downward.

Mr Tony Lowes gave an excellent speech to the conference which looked at the impacts of salmon farming over a wide range of areas from inshore to the wider ocean. The text of the speech which is available at Friends of the Irish a very good insight how salmon farming is conducted without much concern for the wider environment. The speech really explains the many difficulties associated with the industry and how sustainability of this industry cannot be really achieved.

Roar Olsen from the Faroes gave an excellent presentation which outlined their regulatory regime which focusses on hard law and penalties for farms which break the levels of sea lice on farms. These range from a large reduction of smolt stocking, mandatory fallowing and early harvest. They also have a policy of rewarding farms which comply by allowing them to increase smolt stocking. Mandatory sea lice inspection by outside authority with fortnightly published results is also a feature with mandatory chemical parameter testing for dissolved oxygen. One trend discovered is the low level of dissolved oxygen on sea bed in their fjords'

Eanna Molloy S.C addressed shortcomings of the Fisheries (Amendment) Act 1997 in relation the licensing of aquaculture projects, with particular emphasis on salmon farming.

He dealt with the lack of public information and participation involved in decision making regarding amendments, renewals, and revocation of licenses. Similar issues arise in relation to public information, participation in decision making, and access to review of decisions regarding new licences where adverse environmental impacts are apprehended.
He also compared the regulatory framework regarding veterinary products and pesticides applying to terrestrial agriculture to that which applies to salmon farming. There is a perception that there is inadequate oversight of the control and usage of pesticides on salmon farms, compared to the strict supervisory regulation of pesticides and chemicals in land based agriculture.

Dr. Liam Carr gave an excellent talk on his research regarding aquaculture. Primarily his research focuses in on measuring the local knowledge of stakeholder communities in the context of wild and farmed salmon in western Ireland.

Ireland is in a period of policy transition for managing marine resources, moving from single-sector approaches to broader strategies that more definitively acknowledge that resource exploitation carries socioeconomic and environmental impacts. Policies like the Habitats Directive, Marine Strategy Framework Directive, and Maritime Spatial Planning Directive, along with national-level legislation and regulations, have provided a foundation for which to develop ecosystem-based management (EBM).

A central component of EBM is stakeholder engagement and the incorporation of local knowledge in policy-making. Engagement is vital because local knowledge may offer the ability to identify key threats that would otherwise be unknown or unfamiliar to outside interests. Furthermore, the committed act of participation and inclusion can help build trust amongst stakeholders and sense of shared stewardship.

This research focuses in on measuring the local knowledge of stakeholder communities in the context of wild and farmed salmon in western Ireland. Eighty-six high-level, well-informed stakeholders from were interviewed to capture their particular perspectives, in a western Ireland context, surrounding: efforts to conserve and restore iconic wild Atlantic salmon and sea trout locally; key threats to wild Atlantic salmon and sea trout; and the broad suitability of farming salmon. Five distinct groups emerged from the analysis, as well as specific areas of consensus agreement which might serve as starting points for trust-building and development of suitable EBM tools and regulations.

Respondents broadly believe that: the licensing process needs updating; Regulatory authority is fragmented and therefore ineffective at meeting EBM goals; Industry and regulatory transparency needs to improve; Salmon farming threatens the environment, particularly through infestations of the parasite Lepeophtheirus salmonis (sea lice), farmed fish escapees, and wastes associated with aquaculture production; And that these environmental threats must be aggressively managed alongside land-based threats that have deteriorated freshwater habitat or blocked migration paths for wild salmon and sea trout.

Policy Implications
Ireland is in the grips of two competing debates regarding wild and farmed salmon. One debate centres on the potential of doubling farmed salmon production, from current levels of just over 10,000 tonnes per year. Even at 20,000 tonnes, Ireland would remain a bit player in the global production of farmed salmon, dwarfed by Norway (1.5m tonnes), Chile (700,000 tonnes), and Scotland (150,000 tonnes). The industrialisation of salmon farming in Ireland would carry the same impacts observed in Scotland and Norway that have imperiled their wild salmon and sea trout populations.

The second debate focuses on what role do salmon play in Ireland and communities along her western coasts? Atlantic salmon are culturally and historically important to Ireland, an iconic fish who can trace its origin and centrality to the Irish identity to the legend of Fionn Mac Cumhaill agus An Bradán Feasa (Salmon of Knowledge). Wild salmon and sea trout numbers in west Ireland are precariously low, and their recovery uncertain. Irish authorities have a unique opportunity to champion and employ stakeholder-informed EBM for wild and farmed salmon. Adaptive, ecosystem-based, and community-inclusive policies should be enacted. Priorities include: science, monitoring and regulatory compliance; managing aquaculture alongside other sectors like tourism; and establishing site-by-site sea lice treatment trigger level standards that account for the intensity and scale of operations as well as the unique dynamics, processes, thresholds, and ecological carrying capacity of bays where farming occurs or is proposed.