A controversial fish farm has been approved by Orkney Islands Council’s Planning committee despite 16 objections and only 1 letter of support.
This comes after another development also in Scapa Flow was approved at South Cava, in March of this year- Fish Farm Gets Go Ahead Despite Deep Concerns Raised
Scottish Sea Farms applied for an Atlantic salmon fish farming site in Scapa Flow, off Lober, St Margaret’s Hope.
It will contain 12 circular cages, each with a 80 metre circumference and set out in 2 groups of 6.
Objectors to this latest fish farm included Orkney Fisheries Association, Orkney Trout Fishing Association, and the RSPB.
Orkney Trout Association raised the issue of “the potential negative effects of sea lice spreading from the salmon farm to wild sea trout populations in Scapa Flow”.
Orkney Trout Association stated:
“The level of development being proposed for the Scapa Flow area (which you could argue is being turned into one huge megafarm) is a knee jerk reaction by the industry to compensate for the problems it is experiencing elsewhere, problems that highlight the unsustainable nature of the salmon farming industry”.
The RSPB were concerned at the use of open cages and the impact of the development to the Scapa Flow proposed marine Special Protection Area (pSPA).
Orkney Fisheries Association also put in an objection to the development. Orkney Fisheries Association represents the interests of Orkney’s fishing fleet. It promotes ” sustainable fishing practices“. It was concerned at the lack of a biological policy for Scapa Flow and the effects which this development could have on the shellfish fishery : “Brown Crab (Cancer pagurus), European Lobster (Homarus gammarus), Velvet Crab (Necora puber), Green Crab (Cancer maenas), buckies (Baccinum undatum), King Scallop (Pectin maximus) and Queen Scallops (Aequipectin opercularis).”
Scottish Sea Farms stated that the fish farm would create 6 jobs. They also assured council officials that they adhered to strict sea lice control and had not administered “chemotheraputant bath treatments for sea lice in the last 8 years in Orkney “.
It should be noted that emamectin has been found in the sediment of Orkney’s waters – although it is within permitted licence levels. (Scotland’s Aquaculture)
Emamectin benzoate (Slice) is used in fish farms to control parasites such as sealice. It dissolves only slightly in water and seawater. It is toxic to birds, mammals, fish and other aquatic organisms. Factsheet
Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) who had originally objected to the development now agree that it should go ahead. SNH no longer feel that the fish farm would have an adverse effect on site integrity of the Scapa Flow pSPA.
The area is also the habitat of common seals, grey seals and otters. Scottish Sea Farms have stated that they will use approved netting systems to avoid seal entanglement and that they will not use Acoustic Deterrent Devices (ADDs).
However, ” A measure of last resort would be to use lethal control on a persistent seal which is not deterred by the primary predator control measures”
No objections were raised to the final application by Marine Scotland Science (MSS), SEPA or SNH.
It was acknowledged that the development would “ result in significant and adverse impacts on visual amenity to 10 residential properties and several public viewpoints including core paths and minor public roads.” But it was felt that this was not a strong enough reason to object to the fish farm.
Taking all these factors into account, 16 objectors and 1 supporting letter and that Scapa Flow is proposed as a marine Special Protected Area, officials recommended that the application for the fish farm be approved and this was endorsed by the OIC Planning Committee.
Reporter: Fiona Grahame