TWO Government agencies have clashed over plans for a massive deep sea salmon farm off the west coast which backers say will create 500 jobs.
Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) claims it will bring in less than half the employment forecast by the promoters, Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM).
The seafood agency has applied for a licence to produce 15,000 tonnes of organic-certified salmon each year in Galway bay, in waters 1.7km off Inis Oirr on the Aran Islands.
But conservationists in the IFI said they have serious concerns over the location and scale and how it will impact on wild salmon and sea trout stocks.
"The board believe that Ireland's reputation as a pristine wild fishery destination must be safeguarded," the IFI said.
The IFI said fears over damage to native habitats and angling are based on science which found sea lice has devastating effects on wild salmon, accounting for up to 39% of mortalities in stocks.
In a submission the IFI board said it believes that the plan's backers have not given enough regard to potential damage to wild salmon and sea trout in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIS).
"The board does not believe that the corpus of peer reviewed international scientific literature which recognises the negative impacts of sea lice on salmonids have been adequately dealt with in the EIS," it said.
The IFI disputes the 500 jobs figure and said that based on 2007 production and employment statistics in the industry only 202 jobs will be created.
And the fisheries board added: "They will be more than offset by the associated loss of jobs in the recreational angling and tourism sectors if this development proceeds without adequate environmental protections in place.
"It also said proposals for two offshore farms off Mayo and Donegal should be shelved until agencies are satisfied the deep sea plan does not risk Ireland's 230m euro recreational angling industry.
"We cannot be complacent about the resource, or our management of the environment," the IFI board said.
BIM has said its farm plan would produced salmon worth 102 million euro a year and local wages of about 14.5m euro.
It plans to secure a licence for the farm and franchise to a commercial operator.
BIM believes that distance from shore, wave action and space will reduce the risk of sea lice on wild stocks.