Marine Institute study has been panned by Canadian, Norwegian and Scottish scientists

University of Toronto analysis shows the Marine Institute’s 2013 study is scarcely worth the paper it is written on

Earlier this year the Marine Institute produced a study which sought to downplay the role of sea lice in compromising salmon populations, particularly the survival of wild salmon.

However, according to a newly-released paper from the University of Toronto’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, at least three fundamental errors compromise the Marine Institute report.

  • First, data differences from year to year were not treated appropriately.

  • Second, averages regarding the survival of fish were used incorrectly, and third, the Marine Institute study contains grave mistakes in measuring control and treatment groups, leading to wide inaccuracies.

  • Owing to these flaws, the Marine Institute “incorrectly lead the reader to a conclusion that sea lice play a minor, perhaps even negligible, role in salmon survival”, says the University of Toronto paper.

While the Marine Institute suggests that “lice cause 1 per cent of mortality in Atlantic salmon, the correct estimate is actually a one-third loss of overall adult recruitment”.

Led by the University of Toronto, with scientists from leading institutes across Canada, Norway and Scotland, the paper is published in the Journal of Fish Diseases. With this study, Scotland’s equivalent to the Marine Institute – the Scottish Oceans Institute at St Andrews – has shown a research publication of its Irish counterpart to be without foundation.

An Taisce notes that as authoritative scientific voices have weighed into the debate regarding fish farming, the plans for a giant 1,130-acre caged-fish installation between the Aran Islands and Clare, along with similar proposals elsewhere along the coast, appear increasingly ill-advised.

It is disappointing to see that the Marine Institute has been completely discredited but that is unfortunately the sad reality, the The National Trust for Ireland concluded.

In publishing articles which don’t stand up to scientific scrutiny, the Marine Institute has raised serious question marks over the scientific credibility of its own research, as well as making very questionable use of taxpayers' funds.

The revelations about its research can only strengthen the argument that the Marine Institute is propping up Bord Iascaigh Mhara's (BIM) controversial plans for these vast and intensive fish farms off the coast.

Sea lice have proven difficult to control on farms, especially large farms, because it is difficult to treat all fish simultaneously. Such fish farms are linked to mass fatal infestations of wild salmon and trout in countries such as Ireland, Scotland, Norway and Canada. With the Marine Institute study now shown to be essentially a wrong-headed attempt to mask the risks posed by sea lice – harboured in great numbers within such farms – it now needs to be withdrawn in full.


For further information, please call:

James Nix, Policy Director, An Taisce Tel: +353 86 8394129

Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce +353 87 2411995

Email: [email protected]

An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland