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Sinn Féin slam government over Bonamia Ostreae outbreak in Lough Foyle Oysters

27 June, 2005

Following confirmation by the EU Community Reference Laboratory for Disease of Molluscs (CRL) of Bonamia Ostyreae in Lough Foyle oysters, Donegal Sinn Féin County Councillor, Pádraig Mac Lochlainn has slammed the Irish Government over the outbreak. Bonamia Ostyreae is a parasitic disease that permanently destroys the commercial potential of the natural oyster fisheries it infects. Lough Foyle oyster fishermen estimate up to 200 jobs will be permanently lost as a result of the outbreak.

The Donegal County Councillor said that the responsibility for the outbreak lies in the first instance with the Irish Government's Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources (DCMNR), for consistently failing to put in place legislation that would have extended powers to the Loughs Agency to provide for the regulation of sea fisheries within Lough Foyle and the licensing of marine aquaculture.

Cllr Mac Lochlainn said:

"This is an absolutely devastating blow to the fishing community in the area. Essentially this outbreak has permanently wiped out one of the finest natural oyster fisheries in Europe. The natural oyster beds on Lough Foyle are one of only four healthy fisheries on the island of Ireland. The heartbreaking aspect of this outbreak is that it could so easily have been avoided if legislation had been in place permitting the Loughs Agency to control the licensing of aquaculture on Lough Foyle.

"For a long time now, the Foyle Oyster Sub-Committee, made up of oyster fishermen on Lough Foyle has pleaded with the Government to put in place the necessary measures to prevent this disaster. They have been continually ignored. For 13 months, they have sought a meeting with the Minister for Communications, Marine, and Natural Resources, Noel Dempsey. Those requests have gone unheard. Instead the Government allowed a policy of aggressive mussel seeding and dredging in and around a precious natural oyster fishery to go unhindered against established EU policy. It is almost certain that this practice has resulted in the Bonamia outbreak."

He concluded:

"I now call on the DCMNR in cooperation with the six-county Department of Agriculture and Rural Development to immediately initiate a full investigation to identify the cause of this Bonamia outbreak.

"I also call on Minister Dempsey to explain why his department consistently failed to heed the warnings from the Foyle Oyster Sub-Committee and why his Government has prevaricated for 11 years over the transferring of powers to the Loughs Agency.

"DCMNR and DARD must take immediate measures to protect the natural oyster fishery on Lough Swilly by freezing all aquaculture in that area until an investigation of the causes of the Bonamia outbreak on Lough Foyle have been completed and by engaging in immediate consultation with the Lough Swilly Wild Oystermen's Association to avert the decimation of that natural oyster fishery too, now one of only three on the island of Ireland." ENDS

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