Call for governments to work together to tackle jellyfish blooms –

Call for governments to work together to tackle jellyfish blooms Published:  29 November, 2007

A huge swarm of jellyfish wiped out Northern Ireland’s only salmon farm

THE UK and Ireland must work together to tackle the issue of jellyfish and phytoplankton blooms, according to a leading industry figure.

The call comes after a huge swarm of jellyfish wiped out Northern Ireland’s only salmon farm, killing more than 100,000 fish. Billions of small jellyfish, known as Mauve Stingers, flooded into the cages about a mile into the Irish Sea, off Glenarm Bay and Cushendun.

The jellyfish covered an area of up to 10 square miles and a depth of 35 feet. Rescuers tried to reach the cages but the density of fish made it impossible. A second attack meant that the company’s juvenile site at Red Bay on the Co Antrim Coast was also wiped out. A Northern Salmon Company spokesman has said the hit could cost more than £1million.

Further huge jellyfish swarms have now been reported off the coast of Scotland, according to the Marine Conservation Society.

Speaking to this week, Richie Flynn of Irish trade body IFA Aquaculture, described the event as a “horrendous catastrophe”.

“This is nobody’s fault, not least the salmon farmer,” he said. He added that while there is a tendency for such occurrences to be blamed on phenomena such as global warming, there simply isn’t enough long term data available to support such a theory.

Jellyfish blooms and phytoplankton blooms are natural phenomena commonly observed in coastal waters between April and October. According to the Scottish Government, millions of salmon have been killed as a result of these blooms in recent years.

Mr Flynn said that, in 2005, 20 shellfish farms on the West Coast of Ireland were devastated by the karenia bloom. Furthermore, West Coast of Ireland salmon farms have suffered losses due to jellyfish blooms. However, what was particularly unusual about this incident was the timing and ferocity of the event.

While there are some measures that fish farmers can take to mitigate the effects of a bloom – such as deploying tarpaulins around the net pens – these are dependent on them having advance warning.

“The issue is how can we better monitor the seas to warn fishermen and fish farmers about blooms of plankton and jellyfish in the future. The UK and Ireland need to work together on this,” Mr Flynn said.

He added that the number one priority at the moment is to keep Northern Salmon Company, which he described as a “very successful, very well run farm and an excellent asset to Northern Ireland” open.

Northern Ireland’s Agriculture Minister Michelle Gildernew has said that there is no fund available to assist Northern Salmon.

Michelle Gildernew has met representatives from the company to discuss the crisis and she has expressed her concerns over the potential impact for the company.

While there is no fund available to assist, Minister Gildernew said she wished to take the views of her Executive colleagues before responding to the case made by Northern Salmon Company. is published by Special Publications. Special Publications also publish FISHupdate magazine, Fish Farmer, the Fish Industry Yearbook, the Scottish Seafood Processors Federation Diary, the Fish Farmer Handbook and a range of wallplanners.