IRELAND'S Office of the Ombudsman is to extend its investigation into the Irish handling of the EU sea lice investigation to the Department of Foreign Affairs.
The move follows on from last month's announcement that its offices are to conduct a preliminary investigation into the Department of Agriculture's actions during the EU investigation in salmon farms and sea lice's impact on wild salmon. The investigations are based on 'Requests for Redress for Maladministration' that Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) made to both departments, which have rejected the charges.
FIE alleges that the Department of Agriculture suppressed a Report from Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) which had been specifically requested by the EU investigators, denying its existence. The IFI Report, which FIE has obtained under Access to Information on the Environment and published on its website, was highly critical of the defence of salmon farming and sea lice that the Department of Agriculture was making to the Commission.
According to FIE, the Department of Foreign Affairs failed to assign the responsibility for responding to the Commission to include IFI, instead making the Department of Agriculture the sole agency in charge of responding to the investigation.
"The Department of Agriculture is both the licensing authority and the promoter of the plan to build nine mega-salmon farms in Bays along the Irish west coast. IFI has long established concerns over the loss of wild salmon due to salmon farms infested with sea lice. Assigning control of the response to the Department of Agriculture was like putting the fox in charge of the chicken house," FIE director Tony Lowes said.
Janez Potocnik, the European Environmental Commissioner, has told FIE that the Commission has contacted the Irish authorities to seek copies of the documents and determine if new information justifies the Commission reopening the investigation.