The Telegraph (U.K.)

Scottish salmon farms facing stricter regulation over impact on marine environment

Auslan Cramb

Nov 7, 2018
Chemicals used by the salmon farming industry are "significantly impacting" Scotland’s coastal waters, the country’s environmental watchdog has warned.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) said existing regulation was not adequately protecting marine life and has called for tighter regulations to control the £1 billion industry.

Its proposals include tougher standards on the organic waste released by fish farms, enhanced environmental monitoring and a new “enforcement unit” policing the industry.

Following one of the most comprehensive research projects on aquaculture, Sepa also proposes limiting the use of chemicals – described by the industry as “medicine” – used to kill parasitic sea lice.

Lice are found in large numbers on farmed fish and are blamed for destroying runs of wild salmon and sea trout in many west coast rivers.

Sepa’s survey looked in detail at the environmental impacts of eight fish farms and analysed nearly 600 chemical and ecological samples.

Samples taken for chemical analysis were analysed for the sea lice medicine Emamectin Benzoate (EmBz), and Teflubenzuron (Tef), last used in 2013.

The study found that their residues were more widely spread around fish farms than previously thought.

Sepa said the status quo was “not an option" and has launched a seven-week consultation.

Proposals include encouraging operators to site and operate fish farms in less environmentally sensitive waters which could lead to fewer farms in shallow, slow-flowing waters and more in deeper waters.

This could mean some farms closing existing sites close to the shore and moving them elsewhere, although the industry warned yesterday that the costs involved in doing so could be prohibitive.

The new study follows a recent survey that found one in five salmon farms in Scotland failed to meet statutory environmental standards.

Terry A'Hearn, chief executive of Sepa, said: "Whilst a high-quality environment and abundant freshwater resources are vital to Scotland's aquaculture sector, it's an industry that attracts polarised positions, from those who cite its economic contribution to those who stridently oppose its existence.

"…across the last 16 months we've done more science, more analysis and more listening than ever before. Whilst we're seeing innovation in the sector, we've concluded that Scottish salmon farm medicine is significantly impacting local marine environments which increases the now substantial weight of scientific evidence that the existing approaches do not adequately protect marine life.

"We agree that 'the status quo is not an option', which is why we're announcing firm, evidence-based proposals for a revised regime that will strengthen the regulation of the sector."

The industry said it did not expect the proposals to hit its plans to grow at around five per cent a year until 2030.

Julie Hesketh-Laird, chief executive of the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation, said it was a rigorous report that set out the modern regulation the industry needed.

She added: "It is the culmination of years of collaborative work between the Scottish salmon farmers and Sepa to develop a new framework for the gradual and careful expansion of the Scottish salmon sector.

"We share Sepa's vision of an innovative, sustainable salmon industry underpinned by clear and accurate regulation. This report will remove many of the barriers preventing the development of more modern facilities further from the shore and we look forward to Sepa's support as the industry makes this change.”

The industry supports around 1,400 jobs and produced a record 189,700 tonnes of Atlantic salmon last year, with seven main businesses operating on the west coast and in Orkney and Shetland.

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