Save The Swilly believes that the Department of the Marine has decided that Lough Swilly should be designated for aquaculture. Maps marking all existing and proposed aquaculture installations - fin-fish and shellfish - show an enormous expansion.
Aquaculture installations currently under way in Lough Swilly will cover a water surface area of more than 1,000 acres, and the Ministry, despite being questioned specifically, will not say what their ultimate objective is - 2,000 acres? 3,000? 4,000?
Serious implications arise for water quality, food safety, tourism, protection of species such as wild salmon and sea trout, visitor amenities, navigation, visual beauty, and special areas of conservation.
Health risks are real: up to 19 different chemicals are regularly required, and legally approved, to produce farmed salmon. Pesticides, anti-foulants, antibiotics, along with faeces and excess food, end up in the water or as sediment on the seabed.
The EC Directorate-General for Environment has already conveyed their concerns about aquaculture expansion in Lough Swilly's Special Protection Areas to the Irish government. Habitats for migrating and native wildfowl are under threat.
Areas that are historically important because of their marine archaeology are damaged by dredging methods used in oyster and mussel harvesting, or rendered inaccessible because of nets, cages and lines.
More than 75% of aquaculture licence applications in Special Areas of Conservation have been approved by Duchas, the body specifically responsible for protecting Ireland's cultural heritage and with overseeing the SACs.
There is an inherent conflict of interest in the Department of the Marine openly declaring itself an advocate of the aquaculture industry - its stated objective is to expand aquaculture in Ireland by 300% - rather than protecting and regulating the resources for which it is responsible.
Employment is given as justification for increased aquaculture development; seemingly, it is the only rationale. But is this 'jobs at any cost?' We estimate that in Lough Swilly, no more than 20 people are currently employed in aquaculture and we are not threatening those jobs. What we are calling for is a freeze in aquaculture licensing.
If Lough Swilly loses qualities attractive to tourists - pristine beauty, scenic drives, clean water and beaches, wild fish angling - jobs and investments will be threatened.
Visitor amenities suffer: navigating sailors, divers, and those enjoying other water sports find areas that could be used by all are now 'off limits ' to everyone except the holder of a fish-farm licence. Tourism providers (hotel owners, tour guides) relate frequent complaints about the sight - and smell - of nearby fish cages. Beaches and dunes are damaged by service vehicles, washed-ashore markers and buoys, and leftover materials.
If aquaculture sites continue to proliferate, many areas of the lough become no-go areas for commercial fishermen who make their livelihood (some, for four generations) from fishing or harvesting shellfish. You may not be able to see the trestles, nets, lines, etc. underwater, but no boat (fishing or pleasure) can go there. Smaller commercial fishermen cannot go out of the lough in winter because of high seas: they depend on the protection of fishing within the lough for their livelihood.
At least as many people
are already employed in angling as are employed in aquaculture. More
than 80 people are permanently employed in commercial fishing, with
another 200 seasonal jobs. 600 people are employed in hotels, guest
houses, B'n'Bs. The 'balance' between jobs in aquaculture and jobs at
risk in areas affected by aquaculture has been ignored. The attitude
that 'you can't eat the scenery' is simplistic, and not even accurate.
The fact is that Ireland's image as a clean and unspoilt land is a
cornerstone of our tourism and food industries.
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Save The Swilly is concerned that Lough Swilly's aquaculture licensing is not being conducted in a transparent, fully consultative manner. The environmental and economic impacts are not adequately assessed, and serious objections are ignored.
A petition was launched on 13th January 2001, demanding a moratorium on all further aquaculture licensing in the lough until an independent, comprehensive baseline study was done, so that the public could decide. More than 10,000 signatures have been gathered.
The Minister of State for the Marine, when he met with delegates of Save The Swilly on 16th January 2001, refused to consider this demand, and stated that he felt petitions did not carry much weight. He would not give details of the Ministry's plans for Lough Swilly.
An 'Open Letter' [see under Press Releases] was published in local newspapers in late January, explaining what we are seeking, and asking for public support.
The petition, containing
more than 8,300 signatures and comments (and still on-going), was
presented to the Department of the Marine in Dublin on 22 March 2001.
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Take a drive - or better yet, a boat ride - and see for yourself. Rathmullan has an excessive number of shellfish licences, while nearby Mulroy Bay offers a bay-wide demonstration as to what happens when an area of water is intensively farmed for shellfish or salmon.
Express your concerns to your local representatives (urban district councillors, county councillors, TDs).
Write a letter to the Ministry of the Marine and Natural Resources stating your support for Save The Swilly.
Demand a stop to further aquaculture licensing until a baseline environmental assessment has been completed. Demand to be informed of the Ministry's long-term plans for Lough Swilly.
If you would like to share
your thoughts on aquaculture in Lough Swilly, please join the
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Aileach Net Fishermen's
An Taisce (North West Region)
Birdwatch Ireland (Donegal Branch)
Buncrana Anglers Association
Buncrana Boat Club
Buncrana Environmental Group
Buncrana Gun Club
Bunnaton House, Glenvar
Donegal Game Angling Federation
Donegal Historical Society
Donegal Salmon & Inshore Fishermen's Association
Drift Inn, Buncrana
Fahan Sea Angling Club
FISSTA (Federation of Irish Salmon and Sea Trout Anglers)
Fort Royal Hotel, Rathmullan
Glasoige Maghbhile (environmental group), Moville
Inch & Leenan Commercial Fishermen
Inishowen Environmental Group
Inishowen Gateway Hotel, Buncrana
Inishowen Sub-Aqua Club, Buncrana
Irish Fishermen's Organisation (IFO)
Lake of Shadows Hotel, Buncrana
Letterkenny Angling Club
Lough Swilly Preservation Group
Lough Swilly Yacht Club
MayDay (Donegal Branch)
The Meitheal Trust, Inch Island
Moville / Greencastle Environmental Group
North West Environmental Alliance, Moville
Ramelton Community Action Group Ltd
Rathmullan Cottages Association
Rathmullan House, Rathmullan
Save Our Sea Trout (SOS)
St John's Restaurant, Fahan
Tierney's Pharmacy, Buncrana
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