The annual Salmon Watch Ireland Conference is taking place on 18 February in the Salthill Hotel, Galway on the 18th February 2017. This is a unique opportunity whereby attendees can access information on the many complex issues surrounding salmon aquaculture both in Ireland and internationally. The speakers at the conference encompass a wide range of individuals from fisheries management, legal, scientific, NGO and regulatory authorities.
The 2017 Salmon Watch Ireland conference is taking place at a time when the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine has established an independent aquaculture licensing review that, he says, ‘must ensure that all stakeholders can participate in a transparent licencing process and have confidence that any licensing decision complies with all EU and national legal requirements and protects our oceans for future generations’. Regrettably, his statement makes no mention of how all those legal requirements are going to be enforced. That is the focus of the conference.
Stocks of wild Atlantic salmon, including those of Ireland, continue to decline. The causes of this decline are multiple, some having an impact on all components of the salmon population, such as climate change and others, such as salmon farming, having a more local effect. There is general consensus among those concerned with salmon conservation that the impact of those factors over which man has some direct influence (eg the freshwater and inshore environments, water quality, exploitation, by catch at sea, the impact of salmon farms) need to be addressed with some urgency.
Where salmon farms are concerned, the settled view of the salmon conservation community is that there has to be as rapid as possible transition to recycling and closed containment systems. There are now sufficient examples of such systems operating in Europe and North such systems operating in Europe and North America to confirm that they are viable methods for producing high quality farmed salmon economically. But the vast open cage salmon farming industry is not going to transition to closed containment overnight and it is vital that it be regulated so as to immediately mitigate its negative environmental impacts, including on wild salmonids.
The 2017 Salmon Watch Ireland conference will examine the following important issues:
- The current state of wild salmon stocks and the causes of decline;
- The environmental impact of salmon farming;
- The current legal structure for the regulation of salmon farming;
- A case study of a regulatory system that has teeth and works – the Faroe Islands;
- Is a consensus on salmon farming regulation possible?;
- What needs to be done to effectively regulate Irish salmon farms?