Aquaculture in the marine environment is regulated by my Department in accordance with the provisions of the Fisheries (Amendment) Act 1997, the Foreshore Act 1933 and related national and EU legislation. Regulatory agencies such as the Marine Institute also play an important role in the regulation of the industry from a scientific perspective.
Decisions in regard to aquaculture licence applications are made following the fullest consideration of all technical, scientific, legislative, environmental and public interest aspects of each application. It is important to note that the application process involves a period of statutory and general public consultation. Inland Fisheries Ireland, which has responsibility for the management of wild salmon stocks, is a statutory consultee and therefore plays a very important role in the licensing process.
All licences issued contain both general and specific terms and conditions. Provision is made for the reporting of fish escapes to my Department, the Marine Institute and Inland Fisheries Ireland. The failure by a licensed operator to notify the relevant parties of a fish escape would be regarded by my Department as a serious breach of licence conditions.
My Department's records indicate that, during 2017, one fish escape incident was reported. In July 2017, a salmon farm operator notified my Department, the Marine Institute and Inland Fisheries Ireland of a fish escape incident at a salmon farm located at Glinsk, Mulroy Bay, County Donegal. My Department's records indicate that all relevant stakeholders, including Inland Fisheries Ireland, were informed in accordance with the applicable aquaculture licence conditions.
Also during 2017, my Department noted media reports of salmon being found in rivers on the western seaboard which may have been from farmed stock. My Department advised Inland Fisheries Ireland that where anglers or officers of Inland Fisheries Ireland suspected they had collected salmon from farmed stock, the fish should be sent to the Marine Institute for analysis with a view to determining whether they were in fact from farmed stock.
The Marine Institute has confirmed that it received no stock for examination from anglers or from Inland Fisheries Ireland. In addition, the Marine Institute did not receive any request from Inland Fisheries Ireland to examine salmon that appeared to be from farmed stock.