17th September 2013 - ' Friends of the Irish Environment' Press Release.
OMBUDSMAN TO INVESTIGATE SEA LICE COVERUP
The Irish Ombudsman’s office has opened an investigation into
possible mal-administration by the Department of Agriculture Food and
Fisheries [DAFF] during the recent EU investigation into sea lice and
salmon farms. The decision comes after an examination of an extensive
dossier provided by the environmental group Friends of the Irish
Environment. The investigation will determine whether DAFF
intentionally withheld information from the European Commission,
thereby influencing the outcome of EU investigations.
During their investigation the European Commission sought the
‘express views of the agency responsible for wild fisheries’. Inland
Fisheries Ireland [IFI] provided these views to DAFF in October 2010,
strongly criticising the position DAFF had made to the Commission.
However, in November 2011 DAFF told the Commission they had not
received any IFI Report.
The IFI Report stated that the Irish system ‘does not constitute good
sea lice control’. It said DAFF’s position that ‘no empirical evidence
has been made available suggesting the presence of sea lice in salmon
fish farms has a significant impact on the protected species’ is ‘not
consistent with available information’. It concluded that ‘the
potential exists for sea lice transfer from farmed salmon to outward
migrating wild salmon smolts in any estuary with a marine salmon farm
After Simon Coveney became Minister for Agriculture, in June 2011
DAFF told the Department of Communications Energy and Natural
Resources [DCENR, IFI’S Department] that ‘transmission of your
Department’s observations to the Commission would not only be
misleading but would also cause confusion in the public mind regarding
sea lice controls and possibly undermine the state’s regulatory
For these reasons I would ask you to withdraw the formal
observations of your Department and to support the observations
supplied to the Commission by DAFF.’
As late as November 2011, DCENR continued to ‘categorically and
emphatically disagree with DAFF position’ stating: ‘This is their
[IFI] valued and considered expert advice, accepted by this
Department’, DCENR concluded that ‘there appears to be no useful
purpose in continuing this debate in correspondence as there clearly
is a fundamental differing of views on the salient issues…’
However, less than a month later a single page from IFI supporting
DAFF’s position was given to European Commission investigators by
DAFF, leading to the closing of the case by the EU in October 2012.
Meanwhile, sea lice levels continue to rise.
responsible for 80% of the country’s farmed salmon, have reported a
tripling of sites infested with sea lice above the permitted level in
the last three years.
According to Marine Institute documents, in 2012 five ‘cell
interventions’ were made by the Irish authorities in Galway and
Donegal for persistent breaches of sea lice levels in spite of
repeated pesticide applications. Two sites were fallowed and three
subject to ‘accelerated harvesting’, with a ‘significant commercial
impact for the companies concerned’.
Click the links below for further information:
Ombudsman letter confirming investigation
Press Release (long version)
Index of documents
Friends of the Irish Environment on Fintan O’Toole in Irish Times 16th September
Fintan O'Toole's article in Irish Times, 17th September - 'if you can't win the scientific argument suppress it'