Plan for ill-fated Galway Bay salmon farm cost €525k

A State agency poured more than half-a-million euro into a planning application for a licence for the ill-fated fish farm in Galway Bay.

Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) has come under fire for the “outrageous” spend on the project, which polarised opinion in the city and county.

Ireland’s seafood development agency this week confirmed it spent a total of €524,992 on the licence application for its controversial plans for a proposed 15,000 tonne salmon farm.

The cost has been described as “shocking” but BIM indicated it was money well spent on information that will be useful in future.

In December, 2015, BIM announced it was no longer proceeding with the application.

It cited new national legislation in relation to sustainable aquaculture, which capped the size of new fish farms to between 5,000 and 7,000 tonnes, more than half the size of the Galway Bay plan.

It had planned a twin site farm, one for smolts at Inis Oírr and another for more developed species off Indreabhán. BIM claimed the €60 million project would support 500 jobs locally.

However, it faced a wave of opposition.

Opponents said it was a crazy idea, and predicted environmental ruin and the destruction of inshore fishing industry and, as well as having detrimental impacts on shrimp, prawn, lobster, crab and oyster fishing, and also the fishing-related tourism industry.

BIM, in a parliamentary response to Clare Daly, the Dublin TD, confirmed it spent some €524,992 on its Galway Bay licence application.

Deputy Daly, the independent socialist, slammed BIM for the outlay.

“The spend of €524,992 by BIM on this doomed licence application is shocking, and questions have to be asked as to why they persisted with it for so long when there were such huge question marks over the whole project, and such opposition to it.

“The threat to wild fish stocks from sea lice, the dangers associated with farms’ nets breaking, and all of the other environmental impacts of this plan should have been a red flag, and it’s outrageous that over half a million euro was spent on trying to push this application through regardless. You’d very much have to ask why public money was put to such poor use,” said Deputy Daly.

In a statement to the Connacht Tribune, the agency gave more detail about the expenditure.

“BIM invested €524,992, over a four-year period, into the development of a robust application, including scientific analysis, public consultation and legal advice. A considerable amount of this information stands to benefit the organisation and form the basis of future support to the Irish aquaculture industry,” it said.

Meanwhile, Peter Heffernan, Chief Executive of Marine Institute, which is based in Oranmore, confirmed that his organisation also spent €21,948 on the initiative, which included over €9,000 for bird specialist advice; and a further €3,000 for training and simulation.

Simon Coveney, who was Marine Minister at the time the application was withdrawn, confirmed that his department spent a further €31,539 on the project.

That included €29,448 for legal advice, and €2,091 on expert hydrography advice.