Fish Farm Gets Go Ahead Despite Deep Concerns Raised

planningThere were no objections from statutory consultation bodies and only 2 objections from  non-statutory consultees to the  redevelopment and enlargement of an existing Atlantic salmon fish farming site at South Cava, Scapa Flow, Orkney.

Orkney Trout Fishing Association was ‘deeply concerned at the scale and location of this development ‘and went on to say,

“We maintain that the only effective way to mitigate for the potential impact of sea lice is to locate salmon farms much further away from sea trout spawning burns.

“Furthermore, we would urge the OIC to address the unprecedented development pressure by the salmon farming industry in Orkney, particularly in Scapa Flow. The handling of applications on a case by case basis fails to adequately protect Orkney’s wider marine environment – the sustainable use of which is key to all users, recreational and commercial.”

The fish farm will increase from 7,751 square metres to 18,594 square metres with 2 rows of 8 cages.

Planning permission has been approved. 

Inquiry into Fish Farming

The decision coincides with the launch of an inquiry into the impact of salmon farming on the environment by a committee of the Scottish Parliament

The all party Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee will:

” consider the current state of salmon industry in Scotland, identify opportunities for its future development and explore how the various fish health and environmental challenges it currently faces can be addressed.”

It will focus on farmed salmon.

Watch: Parliamentary Committee to scrutinise the farmed salmon industry in Scotland

The Success of Farmed Salmon

salmon162,817 tonnes of salmon were produced in Scotland 2016 and it is projected to be 210,000 tonnes by 2020. As a product it is worth a lot of money to the Scottish economy and in  2016 it amounted to £765,239,900.

The industry is also a significant employer particularly in communities where jobs are harder to come by. When supporting industries are included it accounts for well over 10,000 jobs.

So the farmed salmon industry is of importance to the economy of Scotland and in particular rural and island communities. The industry is dominated by only 5 companies:Marine Harvest, Scottish Sea Farms ,Grieg Seafood, Cooke Aquaculture and the Scottish Salmon Company Ltd. The latter is the only one of these registered in Scotland.

Farmed Salmon Production in Scotland, 2016

  • Shetland: £176million
  • Orkney:£69million
  • North Coast & West Highlands: £220million
  • Outer Hebrides: £154million
  • Argyll & Clyde: £145million

Why the concern with farmed salmon?

Another Scottish Parliament committee, Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, (ECCLR) has reported its deep concern with the expansion of the industry and how it is affecting the environment.

“Scotland is at a critical point in considering how salmon farming develops in a sustainable way in relation to the environment. The planned expansion of the industry over the next 10-15 years will place huge pressures on the environment. Industry growth targets of 300,000 – 400,000 tonnes by 2030 do not take into account the capacity of the environment to farm that quantity of salmon. If the current issues are not addressed this expansion will be unsustainable and may cause irrecoverable damage to the environment.”

Stating that the ‘status quo is not an option’ the ECCLR committee reported that not enough research was being done with gaps in data and monitoring.

The gaps in knowledge identified by the report are:

  • wild fish populations and likely migration routes and the number of smolts leaving individual sites
  •  population level effects of sea lice on wild salmonoids
  •  the risk of disease transfer between wild and farmed populations in Scotland
  •  impacts of sea lice treatments – long term and low level on the benthic diversity and vulnerable species such as cetaceans
  • science based trigger levels for sea lice treatment
  •  diffuse far field effects of chemicals on the benthic and pelagic ecosystem components and cumulative impacts
  • the environmental impacts on freshwater lochs
  • monitoring of long term protected species
  • the extent of genetic mixing between escaped farmed and wild salmonoids (including deliberate releases)
  •  the impact of wrasse fisheries on wild populations
  • the application of new and emerging technological solutions including RAS
  • the impact of climate change

There are other considerable serious concerns with regards to sea trout with their numbers having declined over recent years.

Most worryingly is that many of the same concerns were raised in  2002 ‘but the scale and impact of these has expanded since 2002’.

fish farm

 Graeme Dey MSP, Convener of the ECCLR  Committee said:

“The sector continues to grow and expand with little meaningful thought given to the impact this will have on the environment. In the Committee’s view, if the current environmental impact issues are not addressed, the expansion will be unsustainable and may cause irrecoverable damage.

“The Committee is supportive of aquaculture but expansion must be based on a precautionary approach and on resolving environmental problems. The status quo, in terms of approach and regulation, is not an option.”

For more information:

ECCLR Report on Salmon Farming

opinionIf you want to read the evidence already submitted or to submit your own then visit the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee page.

Reporter: Fiona Grahame




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