A previously unknown floating slaughterhouse has been introduced onto a fish farm in west Cork.

 

The salmon produced by Marine Harvest, Ireland’s largest farmed salmon producer at their fish farm in the Kenmare River are now being slaughtered on a new floating barge rather than being transported alive as initially reported.

 

For the first time in Ireland, a floating slaughterhouse has replaced the company’s established practice of killing the fish within the designated area at the port of Castletownbere. The slaughtered fish are now being landed at Ballycrovane, a small remote harbour within the Kenmare River Special Area of Conservation where they are piped into steel tankers for shipment to the company’s processing plant in Donegal.

 

The organisation had originally received reports of late night activities at the pier which it reported to the Sea Food Protection Authority. After an investigation, they informed the organisation that the activities related to Marine Harvests salmon farm and was beyond their jurisdiction. FIE, who initially thought the fish were being transported alive, subsequently discovered the floating slaughterhouse.

 

Aquaculture is controlled by the Department of Agriculture, Food, and the Marine, [1] whose Principle Officer recently recommended that the company’s licence for this fish farm be rescinded for overstocking, a recommendation rejected by Minister Creed earlier this year.

 

The Department’s Aquaculture and Foreshore division have been unable to date to produce the required written notification from the company of a change in the movement of the fish as required under the licence.

 

According to FIE’s ongoing investigation, the operation is certified by the Aquaculture Stewardship Council on the basis of the fish being harvested within the designated marine area at Castletownbere through the established Chain of Custody. In response to enquiries by journalists, the company was unable to state that the certifiers had been notified and the new procedures approved as required. The product has ‘organic’ status.

 

The environmental organisation, which has offices in the area, says that ‘the operations have been continuing for more than a month, including Sundays and holidays, with up to 5 tankers holding 15 tons of fish each leaving the remote pier, in spite of the road being limited to 3 tons capacity.’

 

The group says the new procedures have been the subject of ‘almost daily’ complaints to their offices over noise, danger to traffic, and disruption, with callers citing disturbance to the local seal and otter populations.

 

The area is designated for protection under the Habitats Directive but FIE says that ‘the Department of Agriculture has informed the group that issues of assessment to ensure protection of the Natura 2000 site are the responsibility of the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Rural Affairs and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphries. However, this Minister has told us that such assessments are the responsibility of the Minister for Agriculture.’

 

A spokesman for the group said they had referred this ‘bizarre situation’ to the European Commission ‘to knock heads together’.

 

FIE Director Tony Lowes said that ‘The area is totally unsuitable for this kind of operation which should be confined to the designated facilities in Castletownbere port and for which none of the necessary authorisations or notifications appear to have been applied for.

 

The farm is licenced to hold 500 tons of fish which, according to the company’s website, are currently being harvested. [2]

 

Further information: Tony Lowes 087 2176316 / 353 (0)27 74771

 

EDITORS NOTES AND REFERENCES

 

[1] Letter to Minister of Agriculture of 4 August, 2017

 http://friendsoftheirishenvironment.org/images/pdf/minister_Agriculture_4.08.17_final.pdf

 

 

[2] http://marineharvestireland.com/planet/sustainability/asc---dashboard/

 

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