The Irish Wildlife Trust (IWT) and the Irish Seal Sanctuary (ISS) have expressed concern over the plans to process up to 50,000 tonnes of fish at a new plant in Killybegs, Co. Donegal.

The new plant plans to turn Boarfish, a fish that has recently expanded greatly in Ireland, into food additives to be added to processed food.

The Boarfish is a small fish which, until recently, has not been targeted by Irish fishermen but for which there is now an export market to China worth nearly €8 million.

While the IWT approve of adding value to fish catches they do not approve it at a cost to the ecosystem. Significant questions remain for both the IWT and ISS as to how the raw material, i.e. fish, will be monitored and how this will impact upon marine ecosystems.

Fish are much more than raw materials for our factories and to-date the IWT and ISS have seen no analysis of how the removal of this quantity of fish will impact upon marine food webs.

They are now concerned as to what effects this may have on species upon which Boarfish feed, or other fish which rely on Boarfish for food. Since this is a relatively new fishery they have concerns regarding the sustainability of the catch since overexploitation has been the norm in the development of sea fisheries in Ireland.

There are also serious concerns that fish may be macerated at sea, with no independent supervision, thereby allowing any species to be caught and disguised as Boarfish. Unless catches are landed prior to maceration, and independently inspected, there will be no way to tell. According to the IWT and  ISS there is a serious risk that further damage to marine ecosystems will occur as a result of the operation of this plant which could exacerbate the decline in biodiversity and economic opportunity.

To answer these questions the IWT and ISS would like to see an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)/Appropriate Assessment (AA) carried out in order to answer these questions.

The IWT Campaigns Officer, Pádraic Fogarty, says “We have been abusing our seas for over a hundred years and much of the richness that sustained the health of our oceans and the livelihoods of coastal communities has been lost.

“Without the proper safeguards and a cautious approach, we may be witnessing yet another short-lived boom leading to permanent depression of Boarfish stock. We need to see the fine words about ‘sustainability’ from Minister Simon Coveney and BIM backed up by concrete actions.”

“How can you take this much from an ecosystem without affecting it?” said Johnny Woodlock of the Irish Seal Sanctuary.

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