Aquaculture producers and members of IFA expressed serious concerns with a proposal by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to apply to the EPA for a licence to dump almost 100,000 tonnes of fine peaty silt in Donegal Bay.
A meeting in Killybegs today heard how the plan threatens the health of millions of fish and shellfish farmed along the Donegal and Sligo coastline.
Executive of IFA Aquaculture, Richie Flynn said that producers had voiced serious concerns over the plan which was first mooted in December.
“We are all in favour of coastal economic development and the extension of facilities in Killybegs which require dredging, but the consequences of the Department’s proposals to dump the spoil in a site which was previously associated with fish kills would outweigh the benefits by ruining the livelihoods of oyster, mussel and salmon farmers in the bay.
“The site is too close to our members, too close to Natura 2000 sites and the level of monitoring proposed is totally inadequate, given the scale of the potential losses involved. The models used for dispersion are out of date and most significantly the peaty nature of the silt has not been taken into account. This material will drift and spread throughout the bay, potentially causing damage to up to €50 million of our stocks and threatening 150 jobs.”
Mr Flynn said the EPA must find an alternative site far away from any aquaculture or fishing grounds.
“The proposed site was the subject of a report which could not show definitively that dumping spoil in that area was not responsible for the death of 2 million fish in 2003. To return to this site now to re-commence dumping is highly irresponsible, especially with such volatile material.
“The industry requires security in terms of dumping that any material will be washed westwards into the Atlantic by way of brand new modelling. It is also very important that monitoring of the operations at the dredge site, on board ship and at the dump site are carried out independently to ensure no toxic material is carried out into the bay and that all dumping occurs exactly where it can do no harm.”