Cardiff in Brussels.

“In conclusion, for the period up to 2013, there was an inadequate framework at EU and Member State level to translate the EU’s objectives for the sustainable development of aquaculture into reality and the measures actually taken did not provide sufficient results”.

– Kevin Cardiff

‘The effectiveness of European Fisheries Fund support for aquaculture’


By Tony Lowes

Surprisingly, Kevin Cardiff, the controversial Irish Government appointment to the Court of Auditors, is garnering the respect of seasoned Brussels watchers. Cardiff resigned as Secretary General of the Department of Finance and alternate governor of the World Bank, in February 2012 to take up the Brussels post.

Cardiff’s elevation raised strenuous objections from those who saw his role in the disastrous 2008 bank guarantee – and an accounting error of 12.3 billion in 2012, as disqualifying him for anything other than early retirement.

Ironically, his first report for the Court of Auditors addressed the fact that the level of trust and confidence in our rulers – in this case the European Union – has plummeted. Eurobarometer polls show that citizens who trust the European Union have fallen from 50% in 2004 to 31% in 2013.

Cardiff’s initial report led to twitching eyebrows, given his opaque appearances in Irish inquires to date about the events of October 2008. Entitled a ‘Landscape review: Gaps, overlaps and challenges: a landscape review of EU accountability and public audit arrangements’, he calls on the Member states “to re-think public accountability and audit within the EU to improve its financial accountability towards citizens”.

His second report is a damning study entitled ‘The effectiveness of European Fisheries Fund support for aquaculture’. Not surprisingly, this was hailed with silence from the Irish government, and remains unreported by the Irish Times.

In spite of more than €438 million in EU funding, the aquaculture industry’s 2011 production is lower than it was ten years previously, while worldwide production has doubled.

While the report did not specifically examine Ireland, the key conclusions do apply here:

•Measures to support the sustainable development of aquaculture have not always been well designed and monitored at EU level

•The Commission’s review of national strategic plans and operational programmes did not systematically ensure that they were designed to maximise the effectiveness of aquaculture policy

•The Commission did not provide comprehensive aquaculture-related guidance on environmental matters

•There were few relevant audits and evaluations by the Commission, and limited monitoring

“Environmental and health risks were not considered sufficiently in funding decisions for aquaculture”, Cardiff said, calling on the Commission ”to establish guidelines for the consideration of relevant environmental facts when determining public funding”.

Cardiff echoed his fellow auditor in Norway, the world’s largest producer of farmed salmon. Jørgen Kosmo’s report from 2012 had concluded: “The aquaculture industry is facing significant environmental challenges, among other things in the form of high figures for escaped fish, salmon lice and extensive losses due to disease. The extent of these and other environmental challenges is so great that it is necessary to strengthen the management of aquaculture in order to ensure environmental sustainability and the possibility of future growth in the industry”.

Irish state support for salmon farms was detailed in an unpublished 2011 SalmonWatch Ireland Report which showed that more than €57 million (index-llinked) in state aid had gone to fish farms that had gone under from disease, parasites, and other biological challenges. A complaint before the Competition Commissionership at the moment records that 30% of the funding from Europe intended for indigenous small to medium enterprises was split between Bord Iascaigh Mhara – a State agency,  and Marine Harvest – the multi-national salmon-farmers which now controls 80% of Ireland’s salmon farms and last year lost €6.7 million here because of ‘biological challenges’.

not in Ireland though

Rather than taking up the gauntlet that Cardiff offered to “provide comprehensive aqua culture-related guidance on environmental matters”, the Environmental Directorate who are responsible for addressing the ‘environmental challenges’, recently (19 September, 2014) closed its ‘Pilot’ and ‘Chap’ investigations into salmon-farming in Ireland. The evidence provided did not demonstrate that “the particular SACs designated for wild Atlantic salmon do not meet their conservations objectives”, that the “scientific debate is not closed”, and that in fact “there is no legal basis under EU law for requiring a general moratorium on salmon farm development”.

The decision is a serious blow to the opponents of the proposed Galway Bay 15,000-tonne salmon farm and the environmental groups who had the complaint reopened after its initial closure in 2012.

It is also entirely contrary to the overwhelming international scientific consensus. Ironically, on almost the same day that the Commission gave Ireland the green light for Minister Coveney’s aggressive plans to build nine super farms along the coast, a major study by ten top international scientists of more than 300 published papers on the subject left no doubt about the adverse impact of salmon-farming along our coasts.

It concluded that “sea lice have negatively impacted wild sea trout stocks in salmon farming areas in Ireland, Scotland and Norway” and that the lice have “a potential significant and detrimental effect on marine survival of Atlantic salmon with potentially 12-44% fewer salmon spawning in salmon farming areas”.

Come home, Kevin Cardiff, reinvented.