AIE: Salmon Farm Mortalities

Marine Institute 


Galway Bay Against Salmon Cages request the following information under Access to Information on the Environment Regulations (AIE) Aarhus Convention 2007 to 2014.

Were there any reports to the Marine Institute of high farmed salmon mortalities on any Irish salmon farm installations between 1st January 2021 to the present day?

If the answer to the above question is yes, please answer the following questions.

When and on what salmon farms did the mortalities occur? Please supply details.

How many mortalities occurred on each salmon farm? Please supply details. 

How many farmed salmon were on each farm when the mortalities occurred? Please supply details. 

What was the reason for the mortalities? Please supply details. 

How and where were the mortalities disposed of? Please supply details. 

Please reply by email as soon as possible please.

Billy Smyth

Chairman, Galway Bay Against Salmon Cages,

Email billysmyth0@aglover


The Marine Institute does not hold records of the number fish involved in each mortality event. Mortalities are reported to the Marine Institute as percentage values. This information has been released.

The Marine Institute does not hold records relating to the number of salmon held on the salmon farms at the time the mortality events occurred.

The Marine Institute does not hold any records relating to the disposal of mortalities from salmon farms.

Waterford Estuary and SSE Generation Ireland Limited (P0606-03)

Water quality of the Waterford Estuary

The EPA has received complaints regarding poor water quality and foaming in the Waterford Estuary which have been attributed to discharges from the SSE Generation Ireland Limited (Great Island) power station. The EPA has assessed SSE Generation Ireland Ltd (Great Island)’s compliance with their licence (P0606-03) and has found no evidence that SSE Generation Ireland are the cause of poor water quality (other than foaming). There are foaming issues at the power station and this situation is described below.

Industrial Emissions licence P0606-03

An EPA licence (P0606-01) was first granted to the ESB in January 2003 for the operation of an oil-fired combustion installation with a rated thermal input equal to or greater than 50MW. The licence was reviewed twice, in January 2005 (P0606-02) to provide for participation in the National Emission Reduction Plan (NERP) and in March 2011 (P0606-03) to provide for the replacement of the oil-fired plant with a new gas-fired combined cycle gas turbine power plant.  

The licence was transferred to SSE Generation Ireland Limited in October 2012. In December 2013, the licence became an Industrial Emissions licence.

A copy of licence register no. P0606-03 including the application is available on the EPA website. You can also review annual environmental reports and other enforcement documentation such as site visit reports at this location.

SSE made a technical amendment request to the EPA on 13/02/2020 seeking authorisation to maintain discharges at SW7 and SW8. SW7 is a storm water discharge which is required for the discharge of rain water and SW8 isscreen wash water discharge. The request also identifies an error in the licence review application for P0606-03 in regard to the usage of sodium hypochlorite. In the licence application, it was submitted that 5 tonnes per year would be used. In actual fact, annual usage is up to 1,300 tonnes. The EPA’s Environmental Licensing Programme has refused this technical amendment request. All information relating to this technical amendment request is available on the EPA’s website and can be searched at the following link Licence search.


In 2016 the EPA first received complaints of foaming in the Waterford Estuary attributed to the SSE discharge of cooling water. Investigations concluded that the foam was due to mechanical action on the discharged cooling water at the outfall.  Booms were installed in 2019 to contain any foam generated at the outfall. After that, there were no complaints of foaming until the weekend of 18-19 April 2020. The licensee (SSE Generation Ireland Limited) is currently investigating further measures to prevent the discharge of foam.

The EPA will maintain close surveillance of the licensee’s preventative actions to achieve an early conclusion of the foaming problem.

Shellfish mortality

In 2016, and again in 2019, the EPA received reports of shell fish dieback and other marine life health issues in the Waterford Estuary. These reports alleged that the discharge of chlorinated cooling water at the SSE power station was, at least in part, a contributing factor. the EPA has investigated this allegation and has found that SSE are compliant with the licence limits on the concentration of chlorine in the discharged water and found no evidence that SSE’s discharge is having such an effect on shell fish and fish mortality.  Chlorine (in the form of sodium hypochlorite, NaOCl) is added to cooling water at intake to prevent fouling of pipes within the power station. This anti-fouling agent is added to the intake cooling water when the water temperature exceeds 10°C.

SSE are currently completing an ecological survey in the estuary and a sampling and modelling exercise to examine the potential for negative effects of discharges from the power station.

Chlorine concentration limits, as set out in licence register number P0606-03, are 0.3 mg/l at SW2 (the main cooling water discharge) and 0.5mg/l at SW8 (screen wash water discharge).

Water quality in the Waterford Estuary

It is evident that the power station at Great Island is not the only potential pressure on water quality in the Waterford Estuary.  The EPA has consulted with other State bodies and we note shellfish dieback has been occurring over many years, not just in the Waterford Estuary but around the whole coast.

Currently there is limited information on the nature and extent of shellfish dieback in Waterford Estuary or the reasons for such mortality. There is, consequently, insufficient evidence to conclude which individual pressures, if any, are contributing to the impacts on marine life in the estuary.

Data on water quality in the Waterford Estuary is available at 

Licence enforcement

The EPA is responsible for enforcing industrial and waste licensed activities.  Where the EPA forms the view that there are breaches of any licence that is not being addressed by the licensee, further enforcement action will be considered by the EPA in line with its enforcement policy.

Making Environmental Complaints

Make a complaint to the EPA.

Update 08 October 2020

SSE submitted the revised Sodium Hypochlorite Modelling Report and Marine Ecological Survey on the 19th of July 2020 as requested and the Agency is currently reviewing these documents.

OEE Inspectors visited the site on 23/07/2020 and 10/09/2020 in order to observe discharges of cooling water. During the site visit, free chlorine monitoring was undertaken at SW2 & SW8 using a HACH DR300 Pocket Colorimetric. The results of the monitoring undertaken during the site visits were compliant with the emission limit values set down in P0606-03.

SSE Great Island submitted a licence review application to the Agency on 29th of September 2020. This application is being assessed by the Environmental Licensing Programme and information regarding the application can be found via our license search page. Interested parties can make a submission to the EPA– click on the “Make a Submission” button at the link.

The EPA has an open compliance investigation in relation to the foaming issue at the SW2 discharge from the facility. Further mitigation infrastructure is planned to be installed by the licensee in October.

Update 18 December 2020

On 30/09/2020 the Agency carried out a site visit in response to an incident reported by the licensee under condition 9.3 of their licence.  The incident involved the accidental activation of the firefighting deluge system during maintenance resulting in a discharge to the storm water system.  There was a small discharge of water and firefighting foam to the area immediately around SW4 before the storm water system was isolated.  This area was immediately cleaned by the licensee to remove foam from the foreshore. The licensee has confirmed that the firefighting foam does not contain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and is fully biodegradable. Our inspection concluded that the licensee had taken appropriate measures to minimise the impact of the incident on the environment. 

On 27/10/2020 the licensee installed further mitigation measures to prevent foam generation at the cooling water outfall at SW2. The installation of rock bags means, on low tide, the water percolates through the rock bags and prevents the waterfall effect which can contribute to foam generation. The licensee is monitoring the effectiveness of the rock bags and will provide periodic reports to the Agency.

Update 14 April 2021

SSE (Great Island) have stated that the usage of sodium hypochlorite in 2019 was 1128 tonnes and in 2020 was 525 tonnes. Under IE licence P0606-03, the EPA regulates the emission of chlorine in the used cooling water discharged to the Waterford Estuary. No non-compliant emissions have been recorded at the discharge (SW2) during monitoring undertaken by both the Agency and the licensee in the period January2019 to date.

Update 12 May 2021

The EPA has received five complaints regarding foam at the outfall from SSE Great Island since 06/05/2021. SSE Great Island informed the Agency that the floating boom (foam abatement) installed at the outfall in September 2019 has been submerged under water and inoperable since Friday 6th May. SSE verbally informed the Agency that this occurred as a result of a build-up of seaweed on the barrier which caused the barrier to be submerged. SSE Great Island further informed the Agency that they have contacted the appropriate contactors to repair and rectify this issue, which will be completed by Friday 21st May 2021.

Update 20/05/2021

SSE Great Island notified the Agency on 18th May 2021 that the floating boom (foam mitigation) across the outfall had been repaired as of 14:30 on the 17th May 2021. A further complaint relating to foam discharges from SSE Great Island was received on the 19th of May 2021. The Agency is currently assessing the performance of the floating boom as foam mitigation. 

The Agency have been informed by the SSE Great Island that following further investigations, sodium hypochlorite is now added to the intake cooling water only when the water temperature exceeds 12°C.

Seafood Taskforce Report (Oct 2021)

The Task Force was chaired by Aidan Cotter, assisted by a steering group of Margaret Daly and Mícheal Ó Cinnéide, and comprised of ten representatives of the fishing sector, representatives of the aquaculture and seafood processing sectors, coastal communities, coastal local authorities and various State enterprise development agencies.

The Taskforce examined the impacts on the fishing sector and coastal communities of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the European Union and the United Kingdom. This final report follows an interim report submitted by the Task Force in June 2021.


Salmon is the dominant aquaculture species produced in Ireland, with 13,400 tonnes worth €127 million produced in 2020.

Irish rock oysters are the next most valuable species produced with 9,000 tonnes and sales of €37 million in 2020.

Mussel production in 2020 equated to 10,300 tonnes of rope grown and 4,400 tonnes of seabed cultured mussels worth €6 million and €7 million respectively.

Other finfish, 600 tonnes valued at €2 million, and other shellfish, 300 tonnes valued at €1 million, make up the remainder of Irish aquaculture production (BIM, 2021).

Seaweed production, a small sector which had been restricted to under 50 tonnes annually, has the potential to grow significantly, over the next number of years as a number of new businesses move into full production.


Due to Brexit, the Irish salmon farming sector has primarily been impacted from a raw material access (feed, juveniles, equipment) and from a logistics perspective.

Due to size of the Irish industry, there are no companies that produce feed in Ireland, so all feed must be imported, primarily from the United Kingdom where it is produced.

Due to the new health certificate requirements, ordering feed and having it delivered, a task which normally took a week from order to delivery in Ireland, now takes around a month.

In addition to this delay in the time taken to get feed, there are extra logistical cost as feed has to be handled through a customs port, Dublin, so companies can no longer import feed directly, which again increases the time and cost of feed deliveries.

Similar issues arise with importing equipment. The cost of equipment from UK based suppliers has increased, both in terms of the cost of the equipment and on the logistical cost of getting it too Ireland. In addition, to this delivery times
have significantly increased.

Juvenile and eggs supply, both to and from Ireland has also been negatively affected.

On the former, Ireland is not 100% self-sufficient in the production of eggs so is reliant on taking in eggs from third countries, primarily Scotland, Norway and Iceland.

At present, getting eggs from these three countries has not proven to be too challenging, relying on non-EU suppliers comes at a risk should there be any disease or regulatory issues which would result in farms not having enough stock to put to sea on a given year.

Another facet to juvenile supply is some Irish producers sell surplus stock to Scotland. Because of Brexit, this has become much more complex and costly, which has reduced the competitiveness of selling surplus juveniles

As the Irish salmon farming sector is reliant on the export market for its product, logistics to those market has been significantly impacted by Brexit.

The biggest challenge has been the increase in cost and time in reaching European markets, whether that has been via the UK land bridge or utilising the direct ferry routes from Ireland to the continent.

Every Irish salmon producer has reported a significant cost increase in using either option, time delays related to additional paperwork requirements, acquiring space on direct ferries, the additional sailing time with the direct route, and/or weather related postponing direct ferry sailings.

Combined, these have resulted in Irish salmon being less competitive in the markets they supply.

IFA SWOT Analysis (Salmon Farming)

Sea Lice Monitoring and Control

All finfish farms are obliged to monitor for sealice on an ongoing basis and to take remedial action. This involves the inspection and sampling of each year class of fish at all fish farm sites fourteen times per annum, twice per month during March, April and May and monthly for the remainder of the year except December-January. Only one inspection is carried out during this period.

During 2020, a total of 209 sea lice reports (consisting of 108 MI reports and 101 farm reports) were received from 22 active farm sites.

One inspection was not undertaken by the Marine Institute on fish health grounds.

Salmon Farms Ireland – Licence Status

Each salmon farm license has a) stocking rate, and b) max allowable biomass

Licenses are all (or almost all) expired

There is no easy way to determine overstocking of salmon in salmon farms

There is no way way to extract the licenced stocking data in a structured format, as it is all held in various pdf docs

If a farm remains unstocked for two years, the license is revoked. But how can you tell when and where fish farms are not stocked? One clue would be via the Marine Institute Annual Sea Lice Reports, which contain results for all the sea lice inspections. See below for most recent report (2020)

Note: Salmon farm data is on the ‘to do’ list, as it is not in any structured or open public format… for reasons

Northern Ireland Inshore Marine Conservation Zones

This GIS layer describes the boundaries of 5 Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs); 4 were designated in December 2016, under the Marine Act (Northern Ireland) 2013 and Strangford Lough Marine Nature Reserve automatically became an MCZ under this section 13 of the afore mentioned legislation.

An MCZ is a new type of Marine Protected Area (MPA), designated in the Northern Ireland Inshore Region to protect nationally important habitats, species and geological/geomorphological features, while fully taking into account any economic, cultural or social consequences of doing so. Rathlin, Waterfoot, Outer Belfast Lough and Carlingford Lough MCZs were designated on the 12th December 2016 after a full consultation process.

The MCZ polygons were digitised to bound the protected features identified within the MCZ using the guidelines for MCZ designation (

The boundaries are subject to change if new verified evidence comes to light regarding the location or extent of the MCZ features which can include including habitats, species and geological/geomorphological features.

Further information can be found at:

Atlas of Commercial Fisheries around Ireland (3rd Edition)

The Atlantic Ocean is the world’s second-largest ocean and covers 20% of the earth’s surface.

The waters around Ireland constitute a small part of that vast ocean but they are very productive; they support a diverse range of international fishing activities and contain important marine habitats and ecosystems.

This resource requires careful management to protect vulnerable components whilst ensuring sustainable exploitation.

This “Atlas of Commercial Fisheries around Ireland” provides a series of detailed maps of fishing activity around Ireland with the aim of providing insights into fishing activities and fisheries resources.

Fishing effort is mapped by gear and country. Irish landings of the key commercial species are mapped individually and by gear.

Environmental Survey of Coastal Waters (Galway – Dublin – Galway): Winter nutrients, benthic macro-invertebrate and contaminants monitoring 2021

The 2021 survey continues the Marine Institute’s Winter Nutrients monitoring that commenced in 1990/91.

The survey has evolved and expanded during this time period with respect to target areas, parameters and sampling strategy. In 2011 this survey was reestablished as a winter environmental survey with a broader remit to provide supporting information for OSPAR and Water Framework Directive (WFD- Directive 2000/60/EC) assessments and also to maintain the winter time series on key biogeochemical parameters in Irish waters in response to pressures such as land based inputs of nutrients and climate change.

Since 2011 the survey circumnavigates the Island of Ireland every two years, alternating southabout and northabout, starting in the Irish Sea and ending in Galway. This provides a complete coverage of Irelands coastal waters over 2 year periods.

However, given the timing of the surveys, winter by necessity to ensure minimal biological activity and therefore highest concentrations of dissolved nutrients, the weather is a significant factor in determining the actual as opposed to planned coverage of the target stations.

This work is complementary to inshore water quality monitoring activities of the Irish Environmental Protection Agency and Marine Institute and the annual offshore oceanographic survey/climate section (53N/Rockall Trough) on the RV Celtic Explorer led by the Oceans Climate and Information Services group at the Marine Institute.

The 2021 survey was designed to collect multidisciplinary information on physical conditions, water chemistry (dissolved nutrients, total alkalinity (TA), dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) and salinity), sediment chemistry (persistent organic pollutants POPs and trace metals), sediment particle size distribution and benthic macroinvertebrates (at targeted waterbodies around the coast).

This contributes to data collection needs of various statutory drivers (WFD and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) Directive 2008/56/EC) as well as providing a research dataset on status and changing conditions (trends and variations) for key environmental variables.

As a result of the COVID pandemic, operational adjustments were implemented such that scientific complement on-board was limited to 2-3 persons at any one time.

In light of this, the survey plan was adjusted to allow the survey to be completed in two legs. 1. Leg 1 – Galway – Dublin: benthic macro-invertebrate sampling 2. Leg 2 – Dublin – Galway: winter nutrient, carbon and contaminants sampling. In order to achieve this plan, the number of survey days was increased to 16.

Marine Foresight Study

Ireland is experiencing a period of major change in terms of the legal and policy framework for marine decision-making, the political and socio-economic context for marine activities, the influence of technological change on marine activities and resultant societal impacts.

Furthermore, increased awareness of the marine environment by the general public, owed to increased education and increased access to resources, as envisaged by the previous Integrated Marine Plan for Ireland, Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth (HOOW), continues to provide increased engagement with marine issues.

Ireland is beginning the process of developing a successor to HOOW, and this foresight study seeks to support that process.

The study has reviewed existing information, both in relation to past and current trends and potential future changes, in seeking to identify the key drivers of change across social, technological, economic, environmental and political topics.

The results of the study are captured in an Evidence Database and summary report.