Increase in the number of Scotland’s Fish Farms Failing to Comply with Environmental Protection Measures

“We’re clear, environmental compliance is non-negotiable” SEPA

Scotland’s aquaculture industry continues to cause concern over its effect on the environment with the latest report from SEPA (Scottish Environment Protection Agency).

fish farm

The figures released by SEPA show that non compliance  by fish farms with environmental protection measures has actually risen from 50 to 56 sites. Some fish farms were also failing to monitor activities adequately and treat effluent waste effectively.

This comes at a time when the aquaculture sector is coming under closer scrutiny by members of the public with recent reports in the media on the effect of sea lice and escapees on the wild salmon stocks.

Sea lice on salmon

sea lice on salmon credit: 7Barrym0re from Wikimedia Commons


In Orkney, two recent applications for fish farms were passed by the council’s Planning Committee despite strong objections.

Fish Farm Gets Go Ahead Despite Deep Concerns Raised

Environmental Objections But Fish Farm Gets Approved

OIC councillors have been assured by Richard Darbyshire , regional production manager for Scottish Sea Farms  that they had no sealice problem and had ‘never treated  for sealice in 10 years’ in Orkney .

Information available on the Scotland’s Environment website for Westerbister Scapa Flow  Jan 2017 and Gairsay Sound 2016 – would appear to contradict his statement.

Screenshot 2018-10-01 10.54.53Screenshot 2018-10-01 11.04.10

Also interesting reading is the use of Hydrogen Peroxide in Orkney.

fish farm data

Hydrogen Peroxide is a delousing treatment – an alternative to remove lice from the  fish without chemotherapeutants (eg SLICE) being used. Its use must be registered and monitored. It degrades rapidly in the environment, however, fish treated with it need at least 2 weeks to recover and research has shown that it can be harmful to fish, especially the mucosal barriers of the gills, skin and gut.

Shapinsay Sound

Orkney Marine Farms Ltd have 2 applications advertised under the Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Regulations 2011. Both are for the discharge of waste from  fish farm cages located in Shapinsay Sound.

“SEPA requires the advertisement of any applications for activities which it considers are likely to have a significant adverse impact on the water environment or the interests of other users of the water environment.” 

fish farm data 2fish farm data 3

Scotch Whisky

One sector which is performing well in complying with environmental protections measures is the Scotch Whisky Industry. This hugely successful industry accounts for 70% of Scotland’s food and drink exports. Scotland’s Economy: GERSday 


“The environmental performance of Scotch Whisky remains one of the nation’s highest achieving sectors – over 90% compliance for the fourth year in a row. Of the 172 licences assessed in 2017 for water abstraction, water discharges and effluent quality standards, 162 accomplished Excellent, Good and Broadly Compliant ratings, bringing the overall compliance to 94.19% for the calendar year.”

Terry A’Hearn, Chief Executive for SEPA, said:

“Every day, SEPA works to protect and enhance Scotland’s environment helping communities and businesses thrive within the resources of our planet.  We call this One Planet Prosperity.  As part of that we’re clear, environmental compliance is non-negotiable. Every Scottish business will comply with the law, and we’ll work to ensure as many as possible will go even further.

“Our Scotch Whisky Sector Plan sets out how we’ll continue our firm focus on environmental sustainability and look for wider opportunities across the supply chain, including in cereal production, transport, bottle manufacturing and packaging.

“We’re also clear that we will not tolerate consistent non-compliance.”

“Our annual compliance report card enables us to systematically identify the compliance issues that need to be tackled in sectors like aquaculture and landfill.  Local communities will rightly hold us to account if future years do not show an improvement.”

Both the Scotch Whisky and the Aquaculture industries are key players in the economy of Orkney and nationally in Scotland. They provide employment in rural and island areas where permanent jobs are harder to come by. But these industries also bear a great responsibility to co-operate in the protection of Scotland’s environment. The Scotch Whisky Industry has shown what is possible. It is time the Aquaculture Industry  did likewise.

Reporter: Fiona Grahame

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