Irish ministers clash over Mowi salmon plan

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A political row has broken out in Ireland over plans by Mowi to develop a salmon farm in the west of the country.

It has also led to major differences between two of the political parties in the country’s coalition government.

Mowi, which already has sizeable salmon farming interests in the Republic, wants to create a new facility in Ballinakill Bay, Galway, a scenically attractive part of Connemara. It is also an important oyster cultivation area.

The plan is being opposed by sports fishermen and environmental groups with backing from local tourist officials who are worried it could impact on visitor numbers.

But the issue has now spilled into the Dáil, Ireland’s parliament where Green Party leader and current environment minister Eamon Ryan, has clashed with Charlie McConalogue, who also heads the department of Agriculture.

Ryan, whose department also oversees inland fisheries, expressed concern over the current system of salmon farm regulation, questioning if it was able to regulate aquaculture’s impact on wild stocks and preventing the spread of sea lice.

McConalogue has strongly defended the current system and the regulatory system in which it operates, saying it also operates within EU conservation laws.

The differences between two senior coalition politicians is also complicated by the fact that the Green Party wants to abolish offshore salmon farming and see it switch to a closed-loop onshore system.

Meanwhile, Salmon Watch Ireland is calling for changes to the current licensing system.

Irish salmon exports, mostly organic, totalled 13,000 tonnes last year and were worth €129 million to the national economy.

Mowi Ireland has said it does not comment on projects while they are at the planning stage.