Lough Swilly Preservation Group, frustrated by the rejection of every appeal lodged against shellfish licences in lower Lough Swilly SAC/SPA, and worried about subsequent threat to wild birds habitat, calls general meeting of 'concerned citizens' in Letterkenny.
Several individuals and groups attend, many of whom have histories of unsatisfactory dealings with Department of the Marine stretching over more than 10 years. Among them: Buncrana Anglers Association, two large hotels in Rathmullan, divers, yachtsmen, small business owners, tour guides, commercial fishermen, environmentalists, An Taisce, property owners, local political representatives. After discussion, it is agreed that joining forces seems to be the best way forward. A committee is informally designated, including representatives from each of the largest and most concerned groups.
November / December 2000
Decision to 'go public'. Early January set as target date, due to pending decision by Aquaculture Licences Appeals Board on further salmon licensing in Lough Swilly.
9 January 2001
Save The Swilly officially launched to the media as an 'umbrella' organisation covering more than 20 individual groups.
Media coverage, both local and national, excellent; also reported in the industry media ( IntraFish and FIS News Service).
Buncrana Urban District Council unanimously votes to support aims and objectives of STS.
10 January 2001
Invitation (issued by press release) from the Minister of State at the Department of the Marine, Hugh Byrne, to meet with him in Dublin to discuss our concerns.
13 January 2001
Petition drive begins in Letterkenny and Buncrana: more than 5,000 people sign, backing Save The Swilly's demands for a moratorium on further aquaculture licensing in Lough Swilly until such time as an independent baseline study and environmental impact assessment have been undertaken on the lough, and local residents have been consulted.
15 January 2001
Meeting with Cecilia Keaveney TD to discuss our demands and the upcoming meeting with Minister of State for the Marine, Hugh Byrne.
16 January 2001
Delegation of six STS representatives meets with Hugh Byrne in Dublin. Other representatives include Cecilia Keaveney TD, Dr James McDaid TD, and several employees of various affiliates of Department of the Marine (Marine Institute, Bord Iascaigh Mhara, etc).
Although 3 1/2 hours long, meeting results in little being decided; STS get none of their demands.
Specifically requested: a moratorium on further aquaculture licensing in Lough Swilly until an independent baseline study and environmental impact assessment have been completed on Lough Swilly; likewise for Mulroy Bay. Refused - or rather, ignored.
And: What is the long-term plan for Lough Swilly? Mr Byrne would not be drawn on this.
Three undertakings were given by Mr Byrne's office, however:
Save The Swilly will be consulted before there is any new licensing in Lough Swilly (as of March 2002, no consultation has been forthcoming on any licence);
Any licence-holder breaching the terms of his licence (particularly in the area of marine safety) will have his licence rescinded (despite various incidents - see below - no licence is rescinded);
A list of 16 written questions left by STS will be answered 'before the Dail re-commences' at end of January. (Answers received in two lots: 6 February and 13 March. This Q&A series mounted on website. Clarification of some answers requested 5 March 2001 - no acknowledgement or further clarification is ever received.)
19 January 2001
STS issues press release stating 'CLAMS (Co-ordinated Local Aquaculture Management) is not the answer. For STS, it's not even the question.'
CLAMS, set up by Department of the Marine to promote aquaculture, has neither legislative nor statutory basis, and prohibits anyone other than those involved directly in BIM, Marine Institute, or aquaculture activities to sit on its board.
STS spokesman says: 'CLAMS has a seat at the table, but it is not itself the table.'
Browns of Inch Island, commercial fishermen, find their propellor shaft entangled in drifting net from Lough Swilly salmon farm. After drifting dangerously close to a pier with darkness falling, they are spotted by another fishing boat and towed ashore.
24 January 2001
'Open Letter to the people on the shores of Lough Swilly' from STS is published in all local newspapers, explaining our concerns and demands, and inviting petition signatures.
27 January 2001
Second petition drive: now more than 6,500.
20 February 2001
STS launches web site www.loughswilly.com. It includes press releases, fact sheets, maps and photos, quotes from various government ministers, a discussion forum, and facility for signing the petition by email.
21 February 2001
Marine Harvest salmon cage (25 metres in diameter) breaks loose in Scraggy Bay and drifts across lough during the night, washing ashore at Buncrana.
22 February 2001
In the Dail, Minister Frank Fahey, in response to a written question from Eamon Gilmore TD, states that no long-term plan for aquaculture in Lough Swilly is planned. "I have no proposals to commission a study on the overall aquaculture potential of Lough Swilly." (Dail Debates, 22 Feb 2001)
'Open Letter to the people on the shores of Lough Swilly' is distributed by mail-shot to approx. 10,000 households in north-west Donegal. It includes a tear-off strip that can be signed and posted to Save The Swilly in support. Many add comments.
5 March 2001
Clarification requested from Minister of State at the Marine, Hugh Byrne, regarding response to the written questions STS delegation left with his department on 16 January. To date unanswered.
11 March 2001
Press release 'reaffirming call for moratorium on aquaculture licensing' and stating STS neither does nor does not support the national 'aquaculture initiative' announced this week by Department of the Marine. As a group we have no opinion on this matter. Our concern is Lough Swilly.
12 March 2001
STS enters discussion on RTE's Marian Finucane programme on chemical food additives - specifically, astaxanthin, a petrochemical-derivative used as food additive in farmed salmon to ensure more appetising pink colour.
13 March 2001
STS press release questions comments by Hugh Byrne in an IntraFish interview that the 16 January meeting with STS delegation had been 'positive' and 'I hope that all the licences in Swilly can now go ahead.'
22 March 2001
Petition with more than 8,400 signatures presented to Department of Marine in Dublin. Handed over on our behalf by two internationally-known musicians, Phil Coulter and Paul Brady, both with strong Donegal connections.
Local media coverage excellent.
Number of group members increases to 27.
30 March 2001
STS has received no response to or acknowledgement of petition that was handed to Department of the Marine, 22 March. Letter sent, requesting acknowledgement of receipt.
Irish Skipper publishes article on STS.
2 April 2001
During STS delegation meeting with Hugh Bryne on 16 January, STS was promised that they would be notified of licences in the Swilly. Despite this, 26 oyster licences are renewed simultaneously in Trawbreaga Bay, Inishowen, but STS is not informed.
Letter to Hugh Byrne requesting explanation for this, with reference to promise made during 16 January meeting. To date, unanswered and unacknowledged.
8 April 2001
More than 150 mussel barrels (an entire site) come adrift from their moorings next to Rathmullan House and drift across the lough, finally becoming entangled on Saltpan Buoy. RNLI lifeboat crew attempts without success to cut the barrels loose. Malin Head Air-Sea Rescue is notified and issues marine bulletins concerning navigation hazard.
23 April 2001
In response to Lough Swilly Preservation Group's registered EU complaint concerning shellfish licences on Lough Swilly, the Commission issues letter to Irish Government warning they are in breach of EU Habitats and Birds directives by issuing aquaculture licences within designated Special Areas of Conservation and Special Protection Areas (flora, fauna and birds). Department of Marine refuses comment.
Liam Cashman, Principal Administrator in EC Directorate-General - Environment, states that Ireland's Department of Marine risks creating 'a conflict of interest' by simultaneously promoting aquaculture and granting licences.
Dúchas is also criticised for not adequately assessing the impact, singly or cumulatively, of fish farming licences on environmentally sensitive areas before the licences are granted.
STS letter to Minister Fahey asking for specific response to demands of 22 March petition.
12 May 2001
Reply to 23 April letter is received from Katherine Licken, private secretary to Minister Fahey. It states 'CLAMS is the answer'.
15 May 2001
Second letter sent requesting clarification of answers to written questions of 16 January 2001. To date, unanswered and unacknowledged.
14-17 May 2001
Independent film producers Fairview Productions, under contract to TG4 to produce a documentary on salmon farming, interview and film throughout Swilly area. Interviewees include: salmon farmers, commercial fishermen, members of STS, local residents.
To be aired December 2001.
15 May 2001
Buncrana Anglers, Save Our Sea Trout and BJ Eastwood lose their appeal to the Aquaculture Licences Appeals Board against two salmon-farming licences in Lough Swilly (Binnawheelmore and Callagh). They will ask for reasons for ALAB's decisions, and examine whether to proceed to a judicial review.
STS press release 'Expansion of salmon farming tragic for Swilly.'
Marine Harvest increases production tonnage by 500 tonnes.
Save The Swilly now has more than 30 member groups, and petition signatures totalling in excess of 8,700.
STS features on Angling Net News (UK) website.
Local website support includes County Donegal Net News, Inishowen Community News, local business-owners.
STS appears as contact on several environmental web sites, among them: SEARC's Web Guide to the Irish Environment (www.searcs-web.com ), Foyle Basin Council - Sustainable Ireland (www.sustainableireland.org ), Opendir Regional - Donegal Society & Culture) (www.opendir.com )
1 June 2001
Marine Harvest announces in local paper (Tirconaill Tribune) that they 'have no problem with baseline study' but would not agree to a moratorium. STS responds that our campaign is focused on the licence-issuer, not the licence-holders (whether they are indigenous or foreign-owned multinationals, such as Marine Harvest). The use of Irish resources is for discussion between Irish citizens and the Irish government of the day.
28 June 2001
Fisheries (Amendment) Bill 2000, wherein Aquaculture Licences Appeals Board will have to give reasons for decisions is once again put on hold. Supported across party lines, and originally requested by Department of the Marine over one year ago (June 2000), it has remained in limbo. Despite assurances from Minister of State Hugh Byrne that legislation would go to Committee stage before summer recess, it is once again postponed: a U-turn in one week.
Magill magazine article on sea lice and chemical additives in salmon-farming: STS mentioned.
4 July 2001
Minister for the Marine announces massive £1.3bn allocation to marine and natural resources for period 2000-2006. Inter alia: marine tourism £29m; angling £30m; aquaculture £57m.
6 July 2001
Buncrana Anglers criticise lack of substance in letter from Aquaculture Licences Appeals Board giving 'reasons' for their rejection of appeal against salmon-farming licences in Lough Swilly. They expected reasons similar to those necessitated under An Bord Pleanala legislation - the legislation upon which Department of the Marine claims the Fisheries (Amendment) Act 1997 is modelled.
10 July 2001
In interview with IntraFish, Frank Fahey is quoted as saying 'That's their problem' when asked about objections to proliferating salmon-farm cages in Clew Bay, at base of Croagh Patrick. As for further salmon-farming licences in Lough Swilly, 'we're still looking at visual impact.'
20 July 2001
Total petition signatures now more than 9,300.
27 July 2001
STS submits article for Earthwatch Ireland magazine; published in Autumn 2001 issue.
18 August 2001
Local fund-raising event (The Iddesleigh Players in John Green's Barn) results in collection totalling £550.
20 August 2001
CLAMS meeting in Letterkenny to consider CLAMS draft proposal; none of the wild shellfish fishermen invited (or consulted on the document); local commercial fishermen refuse to attend, claiming STS support.28 August 2001
Irish Shellfish Association criticises STS for 'missing the environmental point' as Lough Swilly water quality downgraded due to pollution from urban human sewage. Reference is made to an 'expert review' of the water quality data compiled by fish-farmers in Lough Swilly over past years. "The report estimates that salmon farming is responsible for only 5% of the Nitrogen and 7% of the Phosphorous inputs into the lough," they reveal. During the past decade, only one salmon farm has operated on Lough Swilly - this is a very big 'only' for one salmon farm.
STS issues press release 'Save The Swilly welcomes IFA initiative' regarding pollution in the lough; BBC Radio Foyle asks for interview.
8 September 2001
STS presents session on aquaculture in Lough Swilly at An Taisce North West Donegal environmental conference. 8/15 September 2001
STS to commission own independent baseline study and environmental impact assessment on Lough Swilly, as Department of Marine refuses STS demand to initiate such studies.
Fundraising 'tag' days in Letterkenny and Buncrana. On-street donations total more than £1,000. Many private donations also received throughout following months.
13 September 2001
STS delegates request meeting with Minister of State Hugh Byrne, in Letterkenny (post launch of Lough Swilly CLAMS).
Meeting leads to little agreement, and is described by one government attendee as 'acrimonious'.
Request for Department of Marine funding assistance in compilation of a lough-wide Environmental Impact Assessment, similar to 40% grant given to salmon-farming operations for their required EIS, is met with 'Why should we fund something that opposes us?" (Hugh Byrne)
One concession is made Mr Byrne, however: he undertakes to investigate poorly maintained shellfish farms in Lough Swilly. To date, there has been no improvement.
Department of Marine letter requesting photos of these installations, to include date, location, markings suggesting ownership, received 15 Oct 01.
13 September 2001
STS members and supporters meet with Labour Party's environment minister, Eamon Gilmore and Labour Party local candidate Jackie McNair to discuss Labour Party policy on coastal zone administration, including aquaculture.
26 September 2001
Three STS Committee members meet with University of Ulster (Coleraine) Coastal Resources Division staff to discuss format and requirements for proposed baseline study of Lough Swilly.
11 October 2001
Various STS member groups meet with consultant commissioned by Marine Harvest to prepare a 'visual impact survey' of additional proposed salmon-farming sites at Dooanmore and Swilly Rocks / Doaghbeg in Lough Swilly. Several objections are made, but the consultant declares her brief is 'to recommend which of the two sites is preferable - not whether either is appropriate.''
Ballymastocker Bay's Blue Flag beach is noted.
This is second 'visual impact assessment' that has been commissioned by Marine Harvest in Lough Swilly; residents were told initially that Department of Marine itself would be undertaking the survey.
Letter to Department of Marine requesting clarification of this 'visual impact' aspect, questioning objectivity, is unanswered and unacknowledged.
BIM web site press release 'Swilly Environmental Report Blames Sewerage' is "issued on behalf of Swilly Co-ordinated Local Aquaculture Management [CLAMS] Group". Figures of 'only 5% Nitrogen and 7% Phosphorous' attributable to salmon farming repeated. BIM press release ends 'Report will be publicly available next week. For a copy contact BIM Aquaculture Development Division.' Five months later, despite repeated requests, STS still has been unable to obtain a copy of the report.
17 October 2001
STS press release 'Salmon farm wants still more licences inshore', citing the visual impact survey which has been commissioned, quoted in local newspapers. Mid-October 2001
Further to the April 2001 letter of 'First Notice' from EU Directorate-General Environment, objecting to Ireland's handling of aquaculture licensing within Lough Swilly's Special Areas of Conservation and Special Protection Areas (Habitats and Wild Birds directives), Irish government finally responds - 4 months past deadline - a joint effort from Department of Marine and Department of the Environment.
Reference is made to the fact that aquaculture in Lough Swilly will make up 'only 10%' of the acreage of the lough.
Ralph Sheppard, environmental consultant who prepared LSPG's complaint, responds to this letter.
25 October 2001
Department of Marine announces £6 Million funding for aquaculture: £700,000+ for one (Dutch-owned) Lough Swilly/Mulroy Bay company alone, Marine Harvest, encompassing three of their subsidiaries.
STS is interviewed for 'reaction' coverage by local newspapers.
Patricia McKenna, Green Party MEP, offers to support STS petition through EU petition-registration process (now more than 9,700 signatures); she will also raise the question of EU funding to those government departments that are still in breach of various EU directives (e.g. Department of the Environment, Department of Marine).
29 October 2001
Phil Coulter is interviewed in local Inishowen newspaper, Inish Times. He elaborates on involvement with STS, and announces plans for a benefit concert in aid of fund-raising for Save the Swilly, tentatively scheduled for early 2002. Other guests Paul Brady and Altan are proposed.
Work begins on the scoping document which will be necessary to commission an independent baseline study / environmental impact assessment of Lough Swilly.
4 November 2001
Coastwatch Ireland approaches STS for materials that may be relevant to ongoing legal challenge to shellfish licensing in Bannow Bay, Co. Wexford. This is the first 'judicial review' of an Aquaculture Licences Appeals Board decision that has made the 'final hurdle'.
5 November 2001
STS features on RTE1's weekly 'Ear To The Ground' programme, in session headlined 'Fish Farming in Fanad.' In addition to salmon-farming employees, STS spokesman John Mulcahy is interviewed. The demand for a moratorium on further aquaculture development in the lough until an independent baseline study and environmental impact assessment have been done is repeated. In addition, environmental risks and rights of other users to a public resource are described.
22 November 2001
Fisheries (Amendment) Bill 2000, in process since June 2000, is finally passed by the Seanad. Among other changes, it will require Aquaculture Licences Appeals Board to give 'main reasons and considerations' for their decisions. Reasons will be automatically supplied with current and future Appeals Board decisions; past decisions are to receive 'a summary of main reasons and considerations' upon application. This does not quite live up to 'same structure that applies in Bord Pleanala' as it was repeatedly described in parliamentary debates. Recipients of subsequent ALAB letters voice dismay at brevity and dismissive tone.
Minister of State Hugh Byrne refers to 'one group in Lough Swilly' which refused to join CLAMS, and expresses, in the Seanad, hope that they will now, essentially, see the light.
27 November 2001
STS press release on why, as CLAMS is set up by and for aquaculturists, it would be inappropriate and impossible for STS to be a functioning member. STS wants genuine Integrated Coastal Zone Management - where all users of the lough are taken into account - to be the way forward for managing the marine resource of Lough Swilly.
30 November 2001
STS letter to Minister of State for the Department of Marine, Hugh Byrne, regarding comments made in the Seanad alluding to CLAMS and to Save The Swilly, during final debate on Fisheries (Amendment) Bill 2000. Copies of the letter also sent to leader of the Seanad, Senator Donie Cassidy, as well as to Donegal TDs and opposition politicians concerned with marine affairs.
14 December 2001
In November, Patricia McKenna, Green MEP, submitted a written question to the European Commission concerning the suitability of continued EU funding for various projects where the Irish government, in its 'unfettered aquaculture developments in the Lough Swilly area', is 'further despoiling environmental sites of European importance.'
Frank Fischler, Fisheries Minister, answers on behalf of the Commission. His remarks include: "Concerning the aquaculture measure under the BMW (Border Midland and West) regional programme complement, it is stated that the projects will be selected on the basis of their compliance with statutory licensing and planning regulations and Community regulations on poverty, rural development, environment and gender equality. Additionally, the BMW programming complement states that on balance the Aquaculture sub-measure should have a positive impact on the environment . . . " [emphasis ours]
Letter from Hugh Byrne's private secretary in response to 30 November, outlining at length CLAMS objectives, as well as licensing and regulatory process of aquaculture applications; support for aquaculture reaffirmed.
15 December 2001
TG4 documentary on salmon farming in Lough Swilly, and the threat to wild salmon, in which STS participated in June, is aired.
29 December 2001
Irish Times article on 'latest rebuke from EU' over Ireland's failure to protect wild-bird populations is the second media item on this issue in a month. It continues, 'The [European] Commission also expresses concern about "the expansion of aquaculture in the IBA [Important Bird Area] at Lough Swilly."'
10 January 2002
First anniversary for STS.
Internet search on www.google.com for 'Save The Swilly' results in more than 150 hits.
15 January 2002
STS is invited by Patricia McKenna, Green Party MEP, to meet EU Commissioner for the Environment, Margot Wallstrom, in Dublin.
16 January 2002
Northern Regional Fisheries Board, in response to a request for a statement of policy on expanding aquaculture in Lough Swilly, writes: 'The Board is opposed to the development of extensive aquaculture in Lough Swilly. We have written to the Department of the Marine & Natural Resources expressing our opposition to the development of aquaculture on an individual site suitability basis which does not take into account the overall impact of contiguous developments.'
STS is approached to address a class of senior Mulroy College students who have undertaken a project assessing the pros and cons of aquaculture.
23 January 2002
STS attends press conference called by Green MEP, Patricia McKenna, in Dublin to draw attention to Ireland's poor environmental record within the EU.
Margot Wallstrom, EU Commissioner for the Environment, hosts NGO public meeting in Dublin; STS attends.
5 February 2002
Members of STS Committee act as Donegal representatives to aquaculture meeting called by An Taisce in Dublin; other attendees are Friends of the Irish Environment, Green Party, traditional fishermen's legal representatives.
6 February 2002
In the Dail, Alan Dukes (FG) asks whether the Minister for the Marine & Natural Resources "will accede to the request of the Save the Swilly group to commission an independent comprehensive baseline study of the situation in Lough Swilly and a comprehensive environmental impact assessment of the impact of aquaculture expansion and fisheries development on the Lough." Minister Frank Fahey's reply: "In all the circumstances it would be difficult to justify State funding of a costly and lengthy study of the kind sought by the Save the Swilly Group."
7 February 2002
Meeting with Coastal Research Studies Group, University of Ulster (Coleraine) to discuss Scoping Document, in preparation of overall evaluation of Lough Swilly.
STS representatives meet with local Sinn Fein candidate, Patrick McLaughlin.
12 February 2002
Commercial fishermen from Inch Island attend STS committee meeting to put forward their intended plans for additional bottom-culture mussel applications. Full discussion with Lough Swilly Preservation Group follows.
21 February 2002
15 mussel barrels and a mass of entangled ropes drift into Fahan Channel and are spotted by local fishermen. A report is made to Malin Head Coast Guard, who broadcast navigational warnings for a number of days. RNLI from Buncrana later involved in attempts to tow barrels ashore.
23 February 2002
In breach of legislation stating that no aquaculture licence may be granted in areas where there are wild oyster beds, commercial mussel dredging begins in Lough Swilly in areas where oyster beds are located. Dredging continues for more than a week, despite complaints from traditional fishermen who hold long-standing licences from Northern Regional Fisheries Board to harvest oysters from these sites, and despite the mussel licensing pre-condition of an archaeological survey by Dúchas not yet undertaken. Several tonnes of mussels are dredged from outside the mussel-licence boundaries and along with them, thousands of wild oysters.
Lough Swilly Wild Oyster Development Association claims that whatever oysters they managed to salvage from the mussel dredger's conveyor belt are traumatised. The beds themselves, some of only 14 such natural oyster beds in Europe, will take years to recover.
Department of Marine claims that there is 'no difficulty' with this, as the area being dredged is outside the mussel-farm licence in question 'in the public fishery.'
10 March 2002
Sunday Business Post reports that more than 300 seats on state boards will be vacant before the general election in May. "The vacancies will give the government parties an opportunity to reward friends and supporters . . . Appointments to state boards are generally given out to party loyalists and have been known to display a bias towards the constituency of the appointing minister." It continues, "The largest number of jobs will be given out by the Department of Marine and Natural Resources -- where Frank Fahey has over a hundred nominations to make -- and the Department of the Environment, where Noel Dempsey has a similar number of slots to fill."
12 March 2002
Save The Swilly announces the commissioning of a Scoping Study for an Integrated Coastal Zone Management strategy for Lough Swilly. The independent study will be conducted by the Coastal Studies Research Group at the University of Ulster's School of Environmental Studies in Coleraine.
This research group, one of the most highly regarded in Europe, has previously worked with Donegal County Council on its handbook 'Rural Beach Management: A Good Practice Guide' (published 2000).
The Scoping Study will review the current physical, biological and chemical status of Lough Swilly. It will assess the economic, social and cultural aspects of the lough's current usage, as well as the responsibilities of government departments, local authorities and other organisations. Recommendations on the structure of an ICZM initiative will be made, and an assessment made of similar initiatives in Ireland (Bantry Bay Charter); Strangford Lough in Northern Ireland; "Focus on Firths" in Scotland and Cardigan Bay in Wales.
Marine Minister, Frank Fahey, responding to a question from the Labour Party in the Dail a year ago, said: "I have no proposals to commission a study on the overall aquaculture potential of Lough Swilly." STS noted that the government clearly had no intention of producing serious evaluative research on Lough Swilly, ignoring requests to commission a study itself. Neither did the Department of the Marine respond positively to requests for aid in funding the STS initiative.
Save The Swilly, left with no alternative in their objective of establishing the best way forward for Lough Swilly, has received sufficient backing from the public in their fundraising campaign to cover the cost of the Scoping Study. STS will use the report's recommendations to raise further funds from Europe, from international environmental agencies and from concerned Irish citizens to proceed with the comprehensive ICZM study of Lough Swilly.
15 March 2002
Five months later, and still no sign of BIM's promised 'expert review of the substantial body of environmental data that is available on Lough Swilly' commissioned by CLAMS. The report was announced on BIM's web site as being 'available to the public' mid-October 2001.
Save The Swilly, officially launched 14 months ago with 21 groups as members, now has a total of 35 groups under its umbrella.
22 March 2002
Headline in Tirconaill Tribune: "STS considers election options."
25 March 2002
Save The Swilly, An Taisce, Coastwatch Ireland and Green MEP Patricia McKenna hold joint press conference in Dublin. Save The Swilly's petition, with almost 10,000 signatures, is handed over to Ms McKenna for registration with the EU Petitions Committee and official petition letter is presented to the Commission. In addition, An Taisce submits EU complaint regarding Department of the Marine's failure to comply with Birds and Habitats Directives in its aquaculture licensing process.
28 March 2002
STS Committee members meet with local Fine Gael candidate, Bernard McGuinness.
29 March 2002
Patricia McKenna launches strong attack on 'blatant conflict of interest at the heart of fish farming in Ireland. . . the same Minister who grants licences with minimal environmental protection is also responsible for encouraging the growth of the industry by allocating resources to the sector actively promoting it. "
With a general election looming, STS begins canvassing various political representatives, to ensure that they understand what we are seeking, and to determine their support for our objectives.
Controversial mussel dredging by large commercial dredgers from Lough Foyle (backed by Dutch owners) continues over wild oyster beds. No sign of promised 'wild oyster survey' from Dept of Marine.
2 April 2002
STS sponsors event at Letterkenny Labour Party fund-raising night.
4 April 2002
STS Committee members meet with Alan Dukes TD, Bernard McGuinness and Sean Maloney, Fine Gael party members. Lough Swilly Wild Oyster Development Association representatives also attend.
5 April 2002
Patricia McKenna is approached by several Donegal environmental groups, including Save The Swilly, to run as a candidate in Donegal North East. She declares her support for STS and their concerns; however, because she is personally opposed to the practice of 'dual mandate' (whereby a political candidate may hold positions in two levels of government), she declines to run as a Dail candidate, citing responsibilities to those who elected her to the European Parliament.
6 April 2002
Friends of Clew Bay, a group from Westport, Co. Mayo, visit Lough Swilly to liaise with STS concerning similar concerns over aquaculture development, inshore fisheries, tourism and licensing attitude of Dept of Marine and BIM.
12 April 2002
Phil Coulter, internationally famous musician and producer, acknowledges that he has been approached by STS to run as an independent candidate in the upcoming election. Coulter, who has life-long links with Lough Swilly and keeps a home in Buncrana, has been supportive of STS since its inception. He, along with fellow musician Paul Brady, presented the initial petition to the Minister for the Marine on STS's behalf in March 2001. Coulter says he 'is seriously considering the request' but will need some time to determine family and business commitments.
Interviews follow in all newspapers - national and local - and on radio.
'Vox pop' interviews indicate Coulter would garner massive local support. 'It shows people feel badly represented at the moment,' he states.
STS crosses its collective fingers.
18 April 2002
Phil Coulter, citing professional and family obligations, decides not to run as a Dail candidate in the forthcoming election. 'I will continue to represent Save The Swilly as an ambassador-at-large,' he promises.
24 April 2002
STS representative meets with some Letterkenny suburb residents regarding their concerns about sewage in River Swilly area. It is suggested that they form a 'residents group' to address their concerns.
25 April 2002
STS Committee meeting with Jerry Lynch, independent political candidate from Inishowen.
1 May 2002
STS comes to agreement with the Green Party to put up Dr Peter Doran, a respected environmentalist, as an independent candidate. Dr Doran works as a consultant to the Northern Ireland assembly on environmental issues and has a wealth of international experience with the UN, etc. It is expected that a wide range of groups and individuals will support him.
2 May 2002
Jackie McNair, Labour candidate, declares the party's whole-hearted support for STS objectives. McNair attended the initial launch of STS in January 2001 and has been a firm backer throughout. Indeed, the national manifesto of the Labour Party includes a statement backing STS's call for a moratorium on further aquaculture development in Lough Swilly until an independent scientific study has been completed.
3 May 2002
Disappointingly for STS and others, Dr Doran, for professional reasons beyond his control, withdraws his candidacy.
'Our campaign, which we are naming Swilly First, will proceed as planned,' STS states, 'but instead of our own, single-issue candidate who has had to withdraw, we are recommending that our supporters vote for Jackie McNair, who has supported Save The Swilly from its inception.'
Ruari Quinn, Labour Party leader, on campaign tour through Donegal, visits Buncrana to discuss local concerns of STS, wild oyster and commercial fishermen, and other environmental groups.
16 May 2002
Lough Swilly Preservation Group is informed by the Aquaculture Licences Appeals Board (ALAB) that their appeal has failed against granting a new oyster cultivation licence to an applicant who had previously abandoned his original shellfish farming site (for mussels) in Lough Swilly. This abandonment resulted in at best, an eyesore on the scenic Fanad Drive, and at worst, a substantial marine safety hazard.
LSPG issues press release accusing the Department of the Marine of having 'abandoned the lough for any use other than aquaculture development.' They point out that at the first meeting between STS and Dept of the Marine's Minister of State Hugh Byrne in January 2001, a promise was made by Mr Byrne that those licence-holders who failed to comply with safety regulations would have their licences revoked.
No such revocation of any licence in Lough Swilly has ever occurred.
22 May 2002
John Mulcahy is invited to give a short talk on Save The Swilly to Friends of the Linen Hall Library from Belfast during their short tour of Fanad area.
23 May 2002
The long-standing traditional method of harvesting oysters by hand in Lough Swilly is ended by a special sitting of the District Court in Letterkenny. In the first such case taken under legislation more than 40 years old, Northern Regional Fisheries Board claims the only legal method of oyster harvesting is by dredging. Five local oyster-pickers are convicted for continuing a tradition that dates back as far as the famine and before. District Court Judge Thomas Fitzpatrick says that in all his years of sitting at District Courts in Donegal or anywhere else in the country, he has never come across this type of offence. 'People would have thought there was nothing wrong with collecting oysters if they had been doing it for 70 years,' he said.
3 June 2002
STS press release calls the legal action taken against the traditional oyster-pickers 'draconian'. 'The Northern Regional Fisheries Board has used heavy artillery to deal with people who are engaged in an activity that could easily be regularised, while turning a blind eye to a far greater threat to Lough Swilly's wild oyster beds - illegal dredging and the import of shellfish from the seriously tainted Lough Foyle. We believe these issues [including the failure of local fishermen to attract any of the recent grant-funding for fleet upgrade] form part of a deliberate attempt to clear Lough Swilly of traditional hunter/gatherers to make way for aquaculture.'
27 June 2002
In response to a question in the Dail, Minister for Communications, Marine & Natural Resources, Dermot Ahern states: 'I understand, however, that the Save the Swily Group has commissioned a scoping study for an integrated coastal zone management - ICZM - strategy for Lough Swilly. This study will be carefully considered b y my Department, when it has been completed.'
2 August 2002
STS calls for an independent inquiry into the June fish kill in Inver Bay, Co. Donegal, where at least 50,000 mature farmed salmon have been decomposing on the sea-bed for two months. Tadgh Gallagher, Director of Ocean Farm, one of two founding members of Irish Quality Salmon, 'flatly rejected the suggestion that dead fish were dumped in the bay' (Donegal Democrat, 30 July 2002). This was followed within 48 hours by headline ''Significant' number of dead fish found at Inver Farm.'
4 August 2002
Meeting with Kevin O'Connor, co-ordinator of Donegal's Marine Tourism Initiative (also known as 'Marine Development Leisure Forum).
12 August 2002
University of Ulster's Coastal Studies Research Group publishes 'Scoping Study for an Integrated Coastal Zone Management Strategy for Lough Swilly'. The independent report was commissioned by Save The Swilly and funded from public and private donations. In his press release, principal author Dr Andrew Cooper states: 'This study identifies the various management structures currently operating in Lough Swilly and concludes that they are clearly not integrated, as recent EU recommendations suggest. The various groups are not working together to make best use of the valuable resource that exists within the lough. Subsequently, major economic development opportunities are being missed. It is also clear from our research that insufficient information exists for informed decisions to be made for the future management of the Swilly. . . . An assessment of the carrying capacity for different uses, their potential socio-economic benefit and resource use conflicts would provide the foundation for sustainable development.'
Teachers from Northern Ireland schools, filming a pilot study on the topic of aquaculture which will become part of the A-level Geography curriculum and will be delivered online - a first for Northern Ireland - conduct video interviews in Fanad offering 'a balanced set of views so that [the students] can make up their own minds about the issue.' Along with a representative of Marine Harvest and of CLAMS, they interview John Mulcahy, spokesman for Save The Swilly.
22 August 2002
'Telling it like it is: 10 years of unsustainable development in Ireland' is released prior to the Earth Summit in Johannesburg. The report was drawn up at the request of the UN by Earth Summit Ireland, an umbrella group for hundreds of Irish environmental bodies (including An Taisce, Birdwatch Ireland, Coastwatch Ireland and Friends of the Irish Environment), and was funded by the Department of the Environment. The section on aquaculture features the activities of Save The Swilly. Our experiences and objectives are described against the background of government policy to double its aquaculture output despite increasing concerns over the impact on the environment and without a coastal zone management plan.
20 September 2002
Don Staniford, UK marine scientist affiliated with Friends of the Earth, Scotland and anti-fish-farm campaigner, tours Fanad as part of an Irish fact-finding tour.
25 September 2002
As part of EU Common Fisheries Policy reform, the European Commission recommends that aquaculture must be integrated 'in strategies based on Integrated Coastal Zone Management.' In addition, the EC statement acknowledges that there is a potential conflict in coastal areas and states: 'Stakeholders have not been sufficiently involved in policy shaping.'
STS welcomes this recommendation. STS does not believe any one user of the coastal resource, which is public property, should be entitled to set the agenda or long-term strategy for a bay as valuable in economic and heritage terms as Lough Swilly. 'We do not deny aquaculture has a right to exist, but we - and obviously the EC agrees - believe other users are not being given their due regard,' says chairman Tony Morrison.
7 October 2002
Dr Andrew Cooper of University of Ulster(Coleraine and principal author of A Scoping Study for an ICZM Strategy for Lough Swilly conducts seminar on Integrated Coastal Zone in Letterkenny, open to all. Representatives of Northern Regional Fisheries Board, BIM, fish-farmers, commercial fishermen, tourism providers, along with various members of Save The Swilly and the general public attend. Dr Cooper states that Donegal County Council is the body best placed to initiate an ICZM project for Lough Swilly.
18 October 2002
In the ICZM meeting of 7 October, CLAMS representative Alan O'Sullivan responded to criticism by Lough Swilly Wild Oyster Development Association regarding the sowing of mussel seed over wild oyster beds with the assurance that the infringing licences would be 'rescinded.' BIM subsequently refutes this, saying they will be 'amended' only.
29 October 2002
Northern Regional Fisheries Board CEO, Harry Lloyd, criticises the way the Department of the Marine dealt with a major fish kill at Inver Bay in July, stating that the Department had failed to investigate how the fish died and that the clean-up operation had not yet been completed. He also states that Department and the Minister must uphold sanctions and prosecute those who break regulations for fish farming. (Donegal People's Press)
15 November 2002
STS website www.loughswilly.com wins Golden Web Award. Kudos to web master and designer, Joy Backora of The Nerve Centre in Derry.
18 November 2002
Dr Stephen Roulston of Northern Ireland schools, returns to re-video some segments (see 12 August 2002). He includes Buncrana Anglers in his list of segments.
10 December 2002
Information Seminar on Supports Available for the Marine Sector under the National Development Plan is held in Galway. Chair Tony Morrison and committee members John Niven and John Mulcahy attend to gather information on funding that might be available to further integrated coastal zone management, as well as individual anglers' and commercial fishermen's projects.
16 December 2002
Indigenous fishermen of Lough Swilly hold press conference to voice their concerns about the manner in which aquaculture licences are being granted. Members of the Brown family from Inch Island and of Lough Swilly Wild Oyster Development Association, along with members of the Hanlon family of Rathmelton (recently fined for picking oysters by hand from the shoreline) all agreed that they have common ground and have decided to speak out. Principally, they feel that the focus in developing Lough Swilly should start with people who have traditionally earned a living from the lough. They also believe that government agencies are deliberately excluding indigenous people from licensing and from grant aid.
Lobster numbers are declared to be in decline. It is believed this is a result of chemical use on fish farms where cypermethrin and ivermectin (both shown to have deleterious effects on shellfish) are used to combat sea lice infestation.
20 December 2002
Dúchas confirms valuable archaeological sites in the inter-tidal area near Ramelton: 9th century monastic fish traps and a huge shellfish midden believed to be around 8,000 years old. 'We know from the local fishermen that there were five such sites, but one of them has been destroyed by [mussel] dredging,' says a local historian. Dúchas describes their archaeological value as 'significant' and states that the sites will be protected.
27 December 2002
New row erupts in Lough Swilly between wild oyster fishermen and BIM over delays in removing mussel licencees from wild oyster grounds near Ramelton. Indigenous fishermen believe that government agencies such as BIM favour 'the big players at the expense of the indigenous people.'
1 January 2003
Request from Washington academic, Dr Gareth Porter, for information on Ireland's designation of salmon rivers for SAC status under the EC's Natura 2000. He is conducting research for a study of World Wildlife Fund and the Atlantic Salmon Federation. We refer him to Department of Marine and Dúchas.
29 January 2003
STS is informed that their 10,000-signature petition, submitted to the EU in March 2002, has been accepted by the Committee on Petitions of the European Parliament. In a letter dated 24 January 2003, Chairman of the Petitions Committee, Nino Gemelli wrote: 'I would like to inform you that the Committee on Petitions considered your petition on 9 December 2002 and declared the issues which you raise therein admissible in accordance with the Rules of Procedure of the European Parliament.' The petition, which calls for a stop to aquaculture licensing in Lough Swilly until a fully Integrated Coastal Zone Management Strategy has been implemented for the bay, will now be examined by the Petitions Committee in public.
31 January 2003
Department of Communications, Marine & Natural Resources announces granting of a salmon-farm licence at Dooanmore, adjacent to Ballymastocker Bay (and Blue Flag beach at Portsalon). The licence granted is for 36.6 hectares - more than 90 acres - and almost double the acreage specified (20 hectares) in the original licence application. Press coverage, including letters to the editor (some of which personalise the conflict), is frequent for the next two months.
3 February 2003
Save The Swilly group makes presentation on Integrated Coastal Zone Management to Inishowen Electoral Area Committee. Dr Andrew Cooper presents a briefing on the basic points of the Scoping Study, and answers questions from the politicians present.
STS is also invited to approach Donegal County Development Board, requesting permission to make a similar deputation.
7 February 2003
Irish Salmon Growers Association says the dumping of cheap farmed salmon by countries such as Chile (where Marine Harvest's 100% parent, Nutreco, is the largest player) has led to lowest prices ever recorded by Irish farms, now believed to be operating on the very margins of profitability. An ISGA spokesman declares the way forward is to increase output 10%.
18 February 2003
Department of Marine expresses serious concerns about lack of information given by Ocean Farm in Inver Bay following the discovery of dead salmon at the fish farm last summer. A letter from the Department's Coastal Zone Management Division highlights a number of occasions where information was not provided to the Department's engineers who had been monitoring the farm after thousands of dead salmon were found under cages last summer. The letter goes on to describe Ocean Farm's cutting of the net following the mortalities of 5-7 June 2002 which allowed more than 50,000 dead salmon to sink to the bottom of Inver Bay, where they remain.
20 February 2003
Lough Swilly Preservation Group makes public appeal to Donegal County Council to intervene in the location of a 90-acre salmon-farm site at Portsalon. LSPG also accuses the Council of betraying 'one of Neil T Blaney's greatest contributions to the people of Donegal , the Knockalla Coast Road' and its glorious vistas. No comment is forthcoming from Council members.
A series of letters to editors of local newspapers argues the pros and cons of pollution from salmon-farming in Lough Swilly and criticises the computer-aided-design photographs issued by LSPG and by a Marine-Harvest-commissioned consultant regarding the visual impact of the proposed Portsalon site.
Meanwhile, three strangers, armed with maps and documents, are challenged when found trespassing on private land near the Ramelton shore. The three identify themselves as 'from BIM'; however, BIM categorically denies that they have knowledge of their activities. The group is believed to be surveying nearby wild oyster beds. 'BIM is not conducting a survey in this area and nobody has been authorised to act on our behalf,' a spokesman states. The mystery remains officially unsolved.
27 February 2003
Six appeals are lodged with ALAB against the Dooanmore salmon-farm licence. Appellants include individuals and organisations (including An Taisce, one of the statutory consultees for aquaculture licences).
26 March 2003
STS Committee members attend EU INTERREG funding workshop to investigate various possible funding avenues for Integrated Coastal Zone Management plan. Among them are: Agenda 21, INTERREG IIIA, International Fund for Ireland.
4 April 2003
Bantry Bay Coastal Zone Charter, a flagship ICZM project, is wound up. Funding initially came from EU LIFE 'Environment Fund' in 1997; In 2000, Cork County Council agreed to carry on financing the project for a few years, and interim funding from March 2003, provided it was met by the same from the government. Dept of Marine refused the request, resulting in the abandonment of the programme.
11 April 2003
Appellants against the Dooanmore / Portsalon salmon-farm licence receive notification from Aquaculture Licences Appeals Board that due to undisclosed reasons, there will be no consideration of this appeal before July 2003, earliest. (According to Regulations, ALAB is required to make appeal decisions within 4 months of receipt.)
18 April 2003
Dúchas is summarily disbanded, splitting archaeological responsibilities between the Office of Public Works (where it was originally in 1998 before Dúchas was set up) and Dept of Environment. It is unclear where the responsibility for monitoring the natural heritage aspect (SACs, SPAs) of Dúchas' brief will now fall. Opposition politicians question the legality of the break-up without legislative changes.
16 June 2003
STS Committee Members meet with Dr Andrew Cooper, head of University of Ulster (Coleraine)'s Coastal Research Studies department to discuss application for EU funding and contact details for possible tri-partite partners in ICZM plan establishment.
Massive fish kill at all three salmon farms in Inver Bay, Co. Donegal: more than 400,000 dead salmon are removed from cages over a period of several weeks. No report has yet been publicly released on last year's fish-kill (see 2 August 2002), where at least 50,000 mature farmed salmon were allowed to sink to the seabed and have been decomposing since. Initial accusations by fish-farmers that trawling and 'dredging for prawns' close to the cages 'disturbed' the sea bed are met with outrage by local fishermen. No immediate cause is identified. In an early August press release, the Marine Institute reports it cannot yet determine the agent - biological or chemical, in their opinion - which caused the massive fish kill, but they rule out disease as the cause.
FISSTA (Federation of Irish Salmon and Sea Trout Anglers), Lough Swilly Preservation Group and Save The Swilly call for a release of the report on July 2002's fish kill and an immediate independent inquiry into the ongoing situation in Inver Bay.
30 July 2003
STS Spokesman, John Mulcahy, attends VOICE (Voice of Irish Concern for the Environment) seminar in Athlone on EU Water Framework Directive implementation. STS was consulted by VOICE during their initial surveys concerning the EU Directive.
ISGA suggests that dredging operations in Killybegs Harbour is a likely cause of mounting Inver Bay fish kill.
A second report is produced by investigators and forwarded to the Dept of Marine. It is not released to the public.
Fish kill total continues to mount in Inver Bay.
ISGA calls for an independent inquiry, as does Green Party.
Northern Regional Fisheries Board releases statistics on sea lice levels in Inver Bay: they are five to six times levels permitted under current regulations.
11 September 2003
After inquiry, Save The Swilly is informed that the 10,000-signature petition submitted to the EU Parliament in March 2002 is slated for discussion mid-September. We are invited to make additional comments.
18 September 2003
RTE's Prime Time programme on salmon-farming in the west of Ireland.
Highlighted are the issues of sea-lice proliferation on farmed salmon, disposal of fish waste, and the 2002 fish-kill in Inver Bay where Ocean Farm was criticised by the Dept of Marine for tardiness in reporting the mortalities, and lack of cooperation with investigators.
Patrick Gallagher, one of the owners of Ocean Farm, is also on the board of Bord Iascaigh Mhara.
Johnny O'Carroll, a director of the Galway fish farm found to have dumped hundreds of dead salmon in a Connemara bog, is also on the board of the Marine Institute.
24 September 2003
Tommy Broughan TD announces that the Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Marine and Natural Resources has agreed to his proposal to carry out an investigation into allegations of serious abuses in the aquaculture sector following the Prime Time programme.
26 September 2003
Save The Swilly receives report on "Public Participation in Environmental Decision Making" (grounded in the Aarhus Convention). STS was a participant in the background survey regarding 'experiences, attitudes and capacities of main stakeholders with regard to public participation in environmental decision-making in Ireland'.
The conclusions of the report are not positive.
30 September 2003
Save The Swilly makes submissions to the public inquiry into the "Socio-Economic Importance of Wild Salmon" being conducted by the Central Regional Fisheries Board.
14 October 2003
A Marine Institute report (the third from scientists investigating fish kills in Inver Bay and McSwyne's Bay, Co. Donegal) suggests little evidence of disturbance of the seabed near where a now-estimated one million farmed fish have died.
ISGA rejects these conclusions, calling them 'highly premature', and calls for a one-kilometre 'exclusion zone' around salmon-farm cages, as protection against trawling fishermen.
24 October 2003
Lough Swilly Preservation Group advises Dept of Marine of shellfish-farming activities reactivated on two sites where licences, because they have not been operative for more than two years, should have ceased to exist.
The Dept of Marine agrees, and informs individuals involved that those oyster-farming licences are no longer operative.
5 November 2003
Save The Swilly is part of the FISSTA (Federation of Irish Salmon & Sea Trout Anglers) delegation who are invited to make an official representation to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Communications, Marine and Natural Resources hearing on aquaculture. The Joint Committee hearing has been called in response to RTE's Prime Time programme in September, wherein issues such as sea-lice proliferation, illegal disposal of fish waste and the appointment of vested interests to various government agencies were highlighted.
Also invited are representatives from the Department of the Marine, Bord Iascaigh Mara, the Marine Institute, Fisheries Boards, Irish Salmon Growers' Association.
The hearing runs overtime, and members of the committee indicate that they would like to meet again in the new year.
17 November 2003
North West An Taisce annual general meeting. Spokesman from Save The Swilly, John Mulcahy, gives members a quick overview of aquaculture situation and the recent Oireachtas Joint Committee hearing.
18 November 2003
Various groups concerned about salmon farming - FISSTA, anglers, STS, Friends of Clew Bay, Save Our Sea Trout - meet for a 'Salmon Summit' at Delphi Lodge.
Also invited is Dr Paddy Gargan, former chief research scientist for the Central Fisheries Board, and newly appointed to the Marine Institute, as well as local politicians and CEOs of Fisheries Boards.
STS is contacted by academic researchers from UCD's Institute for Study of Social Change concerning a study being conducted on the role of non-governmental organisations in the decision-making process in Ireland. They subsequently follow up with taped interviews with representatives from Save The Swilly and with founding member, Lough Swilly Preservation Group, in May 2004.
17 May 2004
Taped interviews with members of UCD Institute for Study of Social Change. The study, on NGOs' role in environmental decision-making, has been undertaken in cooperation with the Environmental Protection Agency, and is expected to be published in October 2004.
28 May 2004
Tony Morrison, STS chair, and John Mulcahy, spokesman, attend EU conference on Coastal Zone Management, held in Bundoran, Co. Donegal. The conference, "What financial support for the commonn fisheries policy and coastal zone development" is hosted by the EU Directorate-General for Fisheries.
2 June 2004
Phil Coulter, STS's Ambassador-at-Large, issues press release encouraging Donegal voters in the upcoming local and EU elections to vote for change. The entrenched political representatives in the Northwest have done little to progress the concept of coastal zone management of the marine resource, ensuring representation for all stakeholders. Media coverage is excellent, including Irish Independent and RTE News, along with local newspapers.
13 August 2004
Marine Harvest Ireland circulates a scoping letter, stating their intention to re-apply for a salmon-farm licence at Dooanmore, adjacent to the the Blue Flag beach at Portsalon. A previous application for a salmon-farm site in the same location was overturned by the Aquaculture Licences Appeals Board in December 2003. Marine Harvest feels that the ALAB decision was incorrect, and they want another try. Comments and submissions are invited from more than 100 local and distant consultees.
24 August 2004
Further to Marine Harvest's proposal to re-apply for a salmon-farming licence, STS issues news release headlined "What part of NO do they not understand?"
Save The Swilly spokesman, John Mulcahy, is invited to submit a Guest Column to the Salmon Farm Monitor Group's website. This can be found online in the September issue at www.salmonfarmmonitor.org
15 September 2004
Donegal County Council calls for public submissions to the review of the Donegal Development Plan. Representatives from STS attend public meeting at Milford.
24 September 2004
STS makes formal submission to Donegal Development Plan 2006-2010, requesting the inclusion of an Integrated Coastal Zone Management project in the forthcoming plan. Accompanying documentation includes the June 2002 University of Ulster "Scoping Study for an ICZM strategy for Lough Swilly", prepared by UU (Coleraine) Coastal Studies Research Group.
Several STS groups - and all appellants from the December 2003 ALAB process - respond to the Marine Harvest proposal for a site at Dooanmore (see 13 August 2004).
8 December 2004
Lough Swilly Preservation Group holds public meeting in Ramelton concerning new shellfish-farm applications in the lower Lough, an area that is both a Special Protection Area and a National Heritage Area. There is also concern from Lough Swilly Wild Oyster Development Association that one of the proposed sites is part of the Swilly wild oyster fishery. Mussel licences issued previously over wild oyster beds are still an unresolved issue.
LSPG has an ongoing EU complaint lodged regarding inappropriate licensing in Lough Swilly, particularly without due attention to cumulative effect of aquaculture licences.
One oyster licence applicant is a former Coordinated Local Aquaculture Management Systems (CLAMS) coordinator for Lough Swilly, which raises question of conflict of interest.
CLAMS' Director Mike Murphy tells the meeting that CLAMS represents only licensed aquaculture operators and as such, is not a forum for consultation. CLAMS' press release the next day reinforces this: "The Group [LSPG] had the opportunity to make some key points at the meeting, highlighting that CLAMS is not part of the regulatory process."
10 December 2004
Local newspaper, Tirconaill Tribune, reports that Ireland's most northerly open gardens at Ballydaheen near Portsalon face closure if plans by Marine Harvest to reapply for a salmon farm at that site [see August 2004] go ahead. Garden-owners David and Mary Hurley, although not members of Save The Swilly, file objections.
The six-acre garden is a major tourist attraction for Fanad, attracting over 3,000 visitors every summer, and has been described by Harper's Bazaar magazine as "the finest garden" in the Northwest. The Hurleys object to the siting of the proposed salmon farm, describing it as highly visible from and directly in front of the gardens as well as the Seven Arches, another popular tourist draw.
5 March 2005
STS Chair, Tony Morrison, and Spokesman, John Mulcahy, travel to Galway as invitees of national organisation Save Our Sea Trout (SOS). The controversy over drift-netting quotas and the threat to remaining wild salmon is the main topic of discussion.
15 April 2005
STS representatives meet with Lough Foyle fishermen concerned about shellfish aquaculture encroachment and the practice of sowing mussels over indigenous oyster beds in Lough Foyle.
STS is approached by the Sustainable Water Network (SWAN), an Ireland-wide network of 27 environmental NGOs working together on co-ordinated participation in the implementation of the recently-passed EU Water Framework Directive. STS is listed as a "partner group".
SWAN's mission statement, "to increase public awareness of the importance of good water quality for: public health; ecosystems and biodiversity; leisure and tourism; and economic and environmental sustainability, and to show how, through the Water Framework Directive, Ireland's aquatic resources will be protected for future generations."
Recognising that if the WFD is properly implemented, many of the problems we now face through aquaculture development without a plan, particularly in Lough Swilly, will be dealt with, John Mulcahy undertakes to represent STS as a regional NGO participant.
The shellfish disease Bonamia ostreae, which has devastated wild oyster fisheries throughout Europe, is discovered in Lough Foyle.
Lough Swilly Wild Oyster Development Association chairman, Alex Carlin, says Lough Swilly, one of only four Bonamia-free oyster fisheries in Ireland, is at serious risk of cross-contamination due to the movement of trawlers and other vessels, such as mussel-seed carriers, to and from Lough Foyle.
LSWODA calls for an embargo on vessels entering Lough Swilly from Lough Foyle. This is ignored, and no preventative action is taken by Dept of Marine.
Marine Harvest Ireland (MHI) revives attempts to expand its operations in Lough Swilly. A public Scoping Letter proposes doubling licensed tonnage in the lough from 1,000 tonnes to 2,000 tonnes, targeting a new site at Portsalon and expansion at an existing site, Anny Point, near Rathmullan.
In December 2003, a licence granted to MHI for a salmon-farming operation near Portsalon was overturned by the Aquaculture Licences Appeals Board (ALAB), citing risks to water quality, navigation and visual amenity as the basis for their conclusion that the Portsalon site was an unsuitable place for fish-farming.
At the Anny Point site, a Dept of Marine Engineer's 2003 report found that "all cages are outside the licensed area .the situation remains as it has for many years that there is no correlation between cages on the water and the site actually licensed." This report also states that harvest tonnage at the Anny Point site has substantially exceeded the maximum allowed for that site. These serious issues were raised by Buncrana Anglers Association to Marine Minister Pat the Cope Gallagher in November 2004, but without response.
Objections to MHI's proposed plans, particularly concerning the proposed Portsalon site, are submitted by several STS group members, as well as local residents and property-owners.
Sustainable Water Network meeting in Athlone; John Mulcahy attends.
STS makes further submissions to Donegal County Draft Development Plan. In part: "We believe that a systematic and methodical approach to coastal zone management, starting with a detailed objective analysis of the costs and benefits of a particular activity, will serve to maximise the returns from this valuable resource. We submit that a pilot Integrated Coastal Zone Management strategy be included as a core component of the Donegal Development Plan 2006-2010, going beyond the "test" or "pilot" projects now envisaged."
Further, "Save The Swilly is not opposed to aquaculture per se, as is commonly claimed. However, we do believe that there are locations appropriate for aquaculture, and other locations which are not appropriate for such developments. We have not objected to all aquaculture developments in Lough Swilly, but what we have stressed is that no aquaculture developments should be allowed without a full assessment of the carrying capacity of the bay for any such activities, and for their cumulative effects. Our main objection is the fact that there is no overall plan - for Lough Swilly, or indeed, nationally."
22 September 2005
John Mulcahy travels to Dublin to meet with Sustainable Water Network (SWAN) group.
2 November 2005
Representatives from STS, Buncrana Anglers and other concerned groups are invited to a meeting of Donegal Development Board's Marine Concerns section to discuss formation of a Lough Swilly-based ICZM centre. STS chair, Tony Morrison, and spokesperson John Mulcahy attend; other attendees are CLAMS representatives, Marine Harvest personnel, local fishermen, and elected representatives.
15 November 2005
Sustainable Water Network (SWAN), with reference to the EU Water Directive, begins to set up a series of Advisory Councils in various River Basin Districts throughout the country. According to Ireland's S.I. No. 413 of 2005, Water Policy Regulations (Amendment), Advisory Councils are to be set up "to advise and make recommendations on these [WFD implementation] matters to the relevant public authorities."
John Mulcahy agrees to be a SWAN Advisory Council nominee for the NW River Basin District.
Further meeting with SWAN co-ordinator, Sinead O'Brien, takes place in Letterkenny.
Information on the directive, and on Ireland's Sustainable Water Network (SWAN), can be found at www.swanireland.ie
19 January 2006
STS is officially incorporated as "Save The Swilly Limited" and registered at Registrar of Companies, Dublin.
28 February 2006
SWAN meeting in Dublin.
22 March 2006
STS Spokesman, John Mulcahy, attends a one-day conference on Integrated Water Management in Antrim organised by the Northern Ireland Environment Link and Freshwater Task Force. The programme includes the Water Framework & Nitrates Directives, as well as CAP and flood management and diffuse pollution management. An ideal opportunity to build links with Northern Ireland counterparts working on WFD implementation, particularly for RBD Advisory Council nominees. RBD nominees for northwestern area include Mulcahy, of Save The Swilly, and Sarah Field, of Irish Wildlife Trust.
3 April 2006
SWAN meeting in Dublin. It was decided, in order to make SWAN activities more effective, to appoint a Steering Committee. John Mulcahy, rep. of STS, is nominated for the northwest region.
10 April 2006
John Mulcahy attends first SWAN Steering Group meeting in Dublin.
22 May 2006
SWAN Steering Group, including John Mulcahy, meets with John Sadlier of Department of Environment, the principal government department which will be overseeing implementation of Water Framework Directive in Ireland.
8 Jun 2006
Donegal County Council advises that John Mulcahy's co-option to the North Western River Basin District Advisory Council has been agreed by elected members of NWRBDAC. The Advisory Councils system is being established as part of Ireland's requirement to comply with the EU Water Framework Directive [see entry of 15 November 2005]. Under the Directive, member countries will be held accountable for water quality in their river basin districts, which includes most of Ireland's coastline, up to one mile offshore. Participation by environmental non-governmental organisations (NGOs) is also a requirement of the WFD.
John Mulcahy applied for co-option through Save The Swilly's membership in the Sustainable Water Network (SWAN), a body representing and comprising delegates from Irish environmental NGOs. The Advisory Councils do not have executive authority, but they have an obligation to make known any concerns about water quality standards and also to monitor the milestones required to comply with the Water Framework Directive over the next 10-15 years.
23 June 2006
SWAN Steering Group meets with John Sadlier, Department of Environment, in Dublin.
10 July 2006
SWAN Steering Group meets in Dublin.
27 July 2006
Northwest River Basin District Advisory Council meeting is held at Donegal County Council offices in Donegal Town. John Mulcahy attends.
28 September 2006
John Mulcahy attends National RBD Members Conference in Cork.
29 October 2006
SWAN Water Framework Directive meeting in Cork.
4 November 2006
STS Chairman Tony Morrison and Spokesman John Mulcahy attend Galway meeting of Save Our Sea Trout.
23 November 2006
Tony Morrison and John Mulcahy attend EU / Marine Institute Focus Group on Fisheries Management in Killybegs.
22 January 2007
John Mulcahy meets with Donegal County Council rep, Tony McNally, to discuss SWAN and EU Water Framework Directive.
1 February 2007
STS chairman, Tony Morrison, hosts SWAN regional meeting on "Water and Tourism" in Buncrana.
2 February 2007
Joint meeting of SWAN and Loughs Agency, Derry.
10 March 2007
Save Our Sea Trout meeting in Galway; Tony Morrison and John Mulcahy attend.
12 April 2007
Irish Coastal Network (ICONET) conference, Cork: "Towards the Sustainable Development of Ireland's Coast" [ http://iconet.ucc.ie ] Sponsored by Dept of Communications, Marine & Natural Resources. John Mulcahy attends, further to STS's Integrated Coastal Zone Management policy.
16 April 2007
Save Our Sea Trout / STOP (Stop Irish Drift-Netting) joint meeting with Dept of Marine. John Mulcahy attends on behalf of Save The Swilly.