Seabed Sediment Study issued to Donegal Bay Fish Farmers

A study commissioned by the Marine Institute into the condition of seabed sediments in Inver Bay, McSwynes Bay and at the Killybegs Harbour dredge spoil site indicates that the dredge spoil from Killybegs Harbour did not cause the salmon mortalities at Inver Bay and McSwynes Bay in July/August 2003. This finding is consistent with the results of monitoring and analysis of the dredge spoil operation carried out by the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources. The study also indicates little evidence of recent trawling activity in Inver Bay. 

The Sediment Profile Imagery (SPI) survey by Aqua-Fact International Services Ltd. in August 2003, was issued today to local producers in Inver Bay and McSwynes Bay.

The Marine Institute, the marine research and development agency leading the investigation, has met on several occasions with both the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources  in Dublin and with the salmon producers in Donegal to inform them on the status of the investigation. The SPI report is the third interim report issued by the Marine Institute to local aquaculture operators and the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.

The Marine Institute was mandated by the Minister in July to undertake detailed investigations when it became apparent that significant mortalities had occurred in Salmon Farms in Donegal Bay. Mr. Micheal O'Cinneide, who is leading the Marine Institute investigation said, "The Marine Institute has committed significant time and dedicated key staff members to this investigation including fish health experts, chemists and environmental scientists. We have also commissioned studies by veterinary practitioners, and sought advice from international experts in salmon farm mortalities associated with gill damage."

The investigation has shown that the farmed salmon stocks in Inver Bay and McSwynes Bay suffered significant damage to the gills, causing the fish to suffocate. A number of potential causes have been investigated and eliminated, however a definitive cause has not yet been established.

The investigation is ongoing and encompasses a wide variety of aspects including fish health, chemistry, seabed conditions, phytoplankton and oceanography, fishing activity, and fish-farm operations.   

"The scope of the investigation has extended as potential causes are eliminated, and therefore it has taken longer than initially anticipated," said Mr. O'Cinneide. The scope of the study was extended nation-wide in mid-September, at the request of the Minister, in the light of information pointing to elevated mortality levels over recent months in salmon farms along the western seaboard.