Northern Ireland’s only salmon farm was completely wiped out by a freak jellyfish attack, the owners said Wednesday.
More than 100,000 fish worth more than one million pounds were killed in the invasion at Glenarm Bay and Red Bay, on the County Antrim north-east coast. “We are still assessing the full extent, but it’s a disaster,” said John Russell, managing director of Northern Salmon Co. Ltd. “In 30 years, I’ve never seen anything like it. It was unprecedented, absolutely amazing. The sea was red with these jellyfish and there was nothing we could do about it, absolutely nothing.” “I have never experienced such concentrations of jellyfish spread over such a wide area. The vastness was unbelievable.”
The seven-hour attack over Tuesday and Wednesday last week saw the jellyfish covering a sea area of up to 10 square miles (26 square kilometres) and 35 feet (11 metres) deep. “It’s touch and go if we can survive this,” added Russell whose firm supplies salmon worldwide. “It’s a disaster.”
Billions of small jellyfish called Mauve Stingers were involved – they stung and then stressed the salmon which were being kept in cages about a mile out into the Irish Sea. The attack lasted for nearly seven hours with the jellyfish covering a sea area of up to 10 square miles and 35ft deep. Staff in three boats tried to reach the cages, but such was the density of the jellyfish they struggled to get through and when they did it was too late to save the salmon.
The fish is sold to some of London’s leading restaurants and the Queen had salmon on her 80th birthday cooked by top Irish chef Richard Corrigan. It was also exported to hotels and restaurants in France, Belgium, Germany and the United States. Fish farms around Britain and the west coast of Ireland have been attacked before by jellyfish.
But the type blown towards the Co Antrim coast by northern winds have never been recorded in that area.