Salmon farms could face closure under strict new rules

By: Clare Fischer
Date posted: 7 November 2018

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), the country’s environmental watchdog, is calling for tighter regulation of the sector after research found the existing approach to the use of medicines in salmon farming does not adequately protect marine life.

© Dawn Purchase

The industry relies upon a healthy and diverse marine environment in which to operate, action needs to be taken now to achieve this.

Dawn Purchase,
MCS Aquaculture Programme Manager

There are more than 200 fish farms around the coast of Scotland.

The SEPA study examined environmental impacts from eight Scottish fish farms, with scientists analysing 302 chemical samples from 93 sample stations and 296 ecological samples from 142 stations.

Samples taken for chemical analysis were analysed for the sea lice medicine Emamectin Benzoate ( trade name Slice), currently in use and Teflubenzuron (trade name Calcide), last used in 2013. The medicines were detected in 98% and 46% of samples respectively, with residues more widely spread in the environment around fish farms than had previously been found.

SEPA is now calling for updated environmental modelling for siting farms which could involve the closure and relocation of some exiting sites into deeper more fast flowing waters.

The research concluded that the impact from individual farms may not be restricted to the vicinity of that farm but may be felt much further afield. SEPA say they are setting up their first monitoring and enforcement team to study environmental impacts and there will be an increase in the number of unannounced inspections.

An earlier SEPA report said one in five salmon farms in Scotland failed to meet statutory environmental standards and MCS believes that the industry shouldn’t be considering any further expansion of Scottish salmon farming until these urgent environmental issues are resolved.

Dawn Purchase, MCS Aquaculture Programme Manager says: “This draft aquaculture sector plan proposed by SEPA outlines a clear, compelling and long overdue need to revise regulation and enforcement of the salmon farming industry. The industry relies upon a healthy and diverse marine environment in which to operate, action needs to be taken now to achieve this.

“With ambitious salmon farming growth targets set, taking robust action to minimise and mitigate for organic and chemical pollution impacts is imperative and should be undertaken before any growth can even be considered, as we said in response to the recent Scottish Parliamentary inquiry into the industry.”

SEPA is launching a seven-week consultation on the proposals and will host a series of nine events across Scotland during November and December.

Dawn Purchase says MCS welcomes the opportunity to comment on the consultation and hopes the final outcome will result in effective protection for Scottish seas from salmon farming.

Terry A’Hearn, chief executive of SEPA said: “As one of a number of organisations regulating finfish aquaculture, SEPA is clear that our job is to make sure environmental standards protect the marine environment for the people of Scotland and we make sure the industry meets those. That’s unequivocally our focus.

“Consequently 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.”

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Did you know?…

MCS launched the Good Fish Guide in 2001 to help people make good seafood choices

Farmed fish and shellfish production will have to increase by 133% by 2050 to meet projected seafood demand worldwide

An estimated £1.1 billion is spent on fish and chips every year in the UK

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