Coveney must ‘withdraw completely’ from fish farm decision, says Welby

Marine Minister Simon Coveney must “withdraw himself totally” from any decision making regarding controversial plans to locate a giant salmon fish farm in Galway Bay.

This is the view of Independent Connemara councillor Thomas Welby, who has written to Minister Coveney requesting his withdrawal. He has also called on the Department of the Marine to instruct An Bord Iascaigh Mhara “to abandon” the fish farm proposal.

An Bord Iascaigh Mhara is proposing to locate a 1,126 acre, 15,000 tonne, open caged salmon fish farm off Inis Óirr, but the move has met with intense opposition from various groups including Cllr Welby, Independent TD Noel Grealish, Galway Bay Against Salmon Cages, Salmon Watch Ireland, and The Galway Bay Protection Group.

All have raised questions regarding the potential damage to live stocks which such a large scale farm could cause; and warned that it could damage tourism in the Galway region. In November, the EU Commission re-opened an investigation on the farm regarding the alleged suppression of information by the Department, and the exclusion of references to amoebic gill disease in an environmental impact statement on the farm.

Cllr Welby’s call last night for the Minister to stand aside from the process follows recent meeting between An Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Minister Coveney, and Alf-Helge Aarskog, the CEO of Marine Harvest.

According to Cllr Welby, Marine Harvest, quoted in the media as “the giant in Irish fish farming” is probably the only company “that would have the necessary capital to construct the proposed fish farm in Galway Bay”. The councillor feels such a meeting is inappropriate, given that Minister Coveney is the one “ultimately making the decision”.

Cllr Welby has alleged that the project “is so tainted with both the Department and the Minister having serious questions to answer”, that the only option left to ensure fair procedure is to “abandon the proposed fish farm completely” or else hold an “independent review” into the matter.

Galway Bay Against Salmon Cages will hold a fundraising dance, in aid of its campaign, in the Galway Rowing Club, Woodquay, this Saturday. A live band will play classic songs from the sixties and seventies from 9.30pm to 11.30pm. Tickets are €10 on the door.

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