SEPA introduces new finfish aquaculture regulatory framework

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New regulations could lead to larger sites.

In a press release on Tuesday, SEPA introduced a new regulatory framework for Scotland’s finfish aquaculture sector. It was developed following twenty-two months of work by SEPA and implements proposals announced in November 2018 which were subject to Scotland-wide consultation.

The new regulatory framework will take advantage of more accurate computer modelling approaches that will improve the authority’s understanding of the risk to the local environment and allow assessment of the larger-scale impacts including interactions with other farms. It will also include a new tighter standard for the organic waste deposited by fish farms as well as a new approach to sustainable siting of farms.

It is this last point that SEPA will allow for larger sites at offshore locations. “It may allow for the approval of larger farms than would have been traditionally approved previously, provided they are appropriately sited in sustainable locations,” SEPA wrote.

Early in May, The Sunday Times reported that the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) is proposing lifting a ban restricting fish farms to 2,500 tonnes to 500,000 “harvestable” salmon per farm — to make it more viable for the sector to expand into “exposed, more remote, deep-water locations with strong tides”.

The authority also added that it is considering whether moving to using a feed limit or retaining a biomass limit in the permit is the most effective parameter to use to regulate the scale of impact from fish farms.

SEPA’s Terry A’Hearn

SEPA Chief Executive Terry A’Hearn 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 standards.

“Implementing our new firm, evidence-based revised regulatory framework, which follows over twenty-two months of work, more science and more listening to stakeholders than ever before, is an important milestone. It makes powerfully clear our aspirations and requirement that the industry reach and maintain full compliance with Scotland’s environmental protection laws, where SEPA will help those investing in innovation and moving beyond compliance.

“It makes clear too our own commitment to more stringent science, modelling, monitoring, and unannounced inspections and to continuing to listen to communities, NGOs and industry through SEPA’s new National Aquaculture Stakeholder Advisory Panel.”

SalmonBusiness has contacted SEPA to confirm the number from the Sunday Times article.