Tough new government environmental watchdog rules could close Scottish salmon farms

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Some salmon farms could close because of tough new rules being proposed by Scottish Environmental Protection Agency.

With tough new mesures the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) wants to “reduce the amount of liquid medicines, animal waste and uneaten food from fish farms which pollute the marine environment” as reported at the BBC.

The Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) expects this to mean fewer fish farms in shallower, slow-flowing waters and more fish farms in deeper and faster-flowing waters.

Major study
This concluded a major study which raised concerns about chemical treatments for parasitic sea lice. The study found the chemicals had a “longer-lasting environmental impact than previously understood” as reported by the news site.

The restrictions will limit their future use and updated environmental modelling could mean some sites will have to relocate to deeper waters with stronger tides.

“We also anticipate it will encourage the adoption of new technologies such as partial and full containment to capture organic waste and any remaining medical residue,” it says in a report following an investigation.

Scottish farms will face tougher regulation.

Unannounced inspections
A new team will be formed to improve monitoring of fish farms, with an increase in the number of unannounced inspections.

A recent Sepa (Scottish Environment Protection Agency) report said one in five salmon farms in Scotland failed to meet statutory environmental standards.

Terry A’Hearn, chief executive of Sepa, said that compliance was “non-negotiable” and promised a revised regime to strengthen the regulation of the sector.

Mr A’Hearn told BBC Scotland: “What we’ve done is some of the best science in the world to upgrade the modelling that’s used, to upgrade the assessment that will take place and to enhance the way we ensure compliance and enforcement take place.

SEPA’s Terry A’Hearn “”What we hope it means is that fish farms will be sited in the best positions.”

“What we hope it means is that fish farms will be sited in the best positions.”

He said: “Some operators may decide to close some sites that are in shallower waters where the environmental impact is bigger {then} move to deeper and faster flowing waters. Some may look at containment.”

The Scottish Parliament’s Rural Economy Committee is still finalising a report into the industry’s future which will be available in the upcoming few weeks.

“Rigorous” but “enabling”.
Salmon is Scotland’s biggest food export worth more than £1bn to the economy. It also supports 10,000 rural community jobs.

In a press release, Julie Hesketh-Laird, chief executive of the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation, said: “The Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation (SSPO) has welcomed the launch of SEPA’s Finfish Aquaculture Sector Plan and revised regulatory regime, describing it as “rigorous” but “enabling”.

Julie Hesketh-Laird, chief executive of the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation PIC: SSPO

Julie Hesketh-Laird, SSPO chief executive, said:

“This is a rigorous report setting out modern regulation and enabling the industry to grow sustainably over the long term. 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.

More red tape for Scottish salmon farms loom PHOTO: SSPO

She also added “The discovery of residues is important information but it should be remembered that salmon farmers were operating to SEPA guidelines throughout the past five years.

“The management of sea lice on farms has moved on considerably from reliance on veterinary medicines. The use of cleanerfish – like wrasse and lumpfish – which swim with the salmon to keep them clear of lice is highly effective. Other techniques using warm or fresh water are also working well. In fact, the levels of sea lice on farms is as low now as it has been for the past five years.”

Compliance rates will improve
Sepa’s proposed measures will be subject to a seven-week consultation. “The industry shares SEPA’s ambition to make Scottish salmon farming a world-leader in innovation and environmental protection. With the new, more accurate and responsive modelling the industry’s compliance rates will improve,” Hesketh-Laird added. “We look forward to contributing the consultation.”

We fully embrace the opportunity
In an email to SalmonBusiness, Jim Gallagher, Managing Director of Scottish Sea Farms said: “As the science and tools at our disposal continue to advance and improve, so too does our understanding of what more can be done to protect the environment in which we farm – which, ultimately, is the shared goal. We’ve been working with SEPA along with other regulators and stakeholders for many years now to achieve exactly that and we will continue to collaborate under the revised regulatory regime, once agreed.

“Where this new regime requires us to change our activity at existing farms we will happily do so. Equally, we fully embrace the opportunity to farm in more exposed, higher dispersal locations and to this end we have been investing in the new technologies necessary to make this possible.”