On 3 April, my Department received the monthly sea-lice report relating to salmon farms licenced by the Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine. I can confirm that a response to our request was provided by that Department on 12 April. My Department communicated our observations and outlined our appropriate concerns in the context of our statutory responsibilities, and those of Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI), for the protection of wild salmon and their habitat as well as our obligations under the EU Habitats Directive and the convention of the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organisation (NASCO).
My Department receives monthly sea-lice reports in a timely fashion from the Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine and, following consultation with Inland Fisheries Ireland, communicates any concerns in similar fashion. In relation to this report, our concerns were heightened at the reported very elevated lice levels at a number of fish farms during the critical migration period for wild Atlantic salmon, a protected species under the Habitats Directive.
Scientific research both in Ireland and internationally indicates that the impact on vulnerable wild salmon smolts (juveniles), during outward migration to distant feeding grounds, of heavy sea lice infestation can have a highly damaging effect on the numbers of these juveniles that survive and return to their natal river to spawn and create the next generation of fish which are genetically unique to that river. Recent peer reviewed research internationally has shown that sea lice emanating from fish farms can add up to an additional 39% mortality on these salmon smolts.