A decision on a proposed 15,000-tonne fish farm off Gola island in west Donegal is expected in the autumn.
The farm is one of four on the west coast of the country that were proposed three years ago.
Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) has applied for a licence for one of the four farms and a decision is expected in the coming weeks.
Campaigners against the proposed farms say that once a licence is granted for a proposed farm in Galway bay, licence applications and decisions on the other three, including Gola, will follow closely.
The other sites are: close to Inis Oirr in Galway Bay, close to Inis Turk off the Mayo coast and at the Skred Rocks in South Connemmara.
The Federation of Irish Salmon and Seatrout Anglers (Fissta) has concerns about the impact of such salmon farms on migratory wild salmon as them are proposed to the risk of infection by sea lice. The group says the farms are close to the migratory routes of salmon, with the proposed farm at Gola having the potential to impact on salmon using Donegal rivers such as the Glen River and all rivers running into Donegal Bay. Fissta say a decision on the Galway Bay farm is expected in the coming weeks and a decision on the Gola proposal should follow in the autumn.
Honorary secretary of Fissta, Donegal man Noel Carr, said the Marine Institute had recommended the Galway proposal be cut by a third to 5,000 tonne, and it is expected that the other farms will also be reduced. Otherwise the fish travelling to and from Donegal rivers would have to swim through 70 or 80 fish cages. “Galway will open up the flood gates for new applications. Once the minister grants one he will grant them all.”
“Inland Fisheries Ireland put the rate of infection of wild fish at 30 per cent,” he said. “However, Donegal may yet achieve a win–win situation if the proposals of local anglers are acted upon by Minister Simon Coveney, who recently produced a spatial strategy and sought and received a new ideas and solutions in a submission from FISSTA.”
The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine said the application by BIM for an aquaculture licence for the cultivation of finfish in Galway Bay is under consideration and a determination will be made as soon as possible following the completion of the necessary assessment process.
“This process will take full account of all national and EU legislative requirements and will reflect the full engineering, scientific, environmental, legal and public policy aspects of the application.”