“The biggest negative effect” was “on the crustacean abundance and richness.” SEPA Fish Farm Report

map of fish farm survey

SEPA Fish Farm Survey Report

“Scottish salmon farm medicine is significantly impacting local marine environments.  That is the conclusion of one of Scotland’s largest and most comprehensive marine research projects into aquaculture, undertaken by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA).”

The impact of Fish Farms on the environment is an issue The Orkney News has raised in  articles we have published over several months.

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

Scotland’s aquaculture industry is the largest in the EU. Highest Ever Figure for Farmed Salmon in Scotland and the third largest in the world.

It has been argued in the past that medicines used to treat sea lice infestations in farmed salmon soon dissipated and had little long lasting effect. A survey published by SEPA –  ‘Fish Farm Survey Report – Evaluation of a New Seabed Monitoring Approach to Investigate the Impacts of Marine Cage Fish Farms’, has re-assessed that claim.

“Samples for chemical analysis were analysed for the sea lice medicine Emamectin Benzoate (EmBz) and Teflubenzuron (Tef), last used in 2013.  The medicines were detected in 98% and 46% of samples respectively, with residues more widely spread in the environment around fish farms than had previously been found.  Moreover, the research concluded that the impacts of individual farms may not be contained to the vicinity of individual farms.”

This is serious news for Scapa Flow with its unique environment now under consideration to be a Marine Special Protected Area and our successful inshore fishing industry. Please take note Orkney Islands Council Planning Committee.

“Statistical analysis showed that EmBz had the biggest negative effect on the crustacean abundance and richness. This effect was detectable below the current EQS, this adds to the weight of evidence that the current EQS may not be protective of benthic ecology beyond the 100m from the cages.

In response to the report SEPA is strengthening its regulations.

Terry A’Hearn, Chief Executive of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, 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.  That’s unequivocally our focus.

“Consequently across the last sixteen months we’ve done more science, more analysis and more listening than ever before.   Whilst we’re seeing innovation in the sector, we’ve concluded that Scottish salmon farm medicine is significantly impacting local marine environments which increases the now substantial weight of scientific evidence that the existing approaches do not adequately protect marine life.

“We agree that ‘the status quo is not an option’ which is why we’re announcing firm, evidence based proposals for a revised regime that will strengthen the regulation of the sector.  As part of a Scotland-wide consultation, we’re now keen to hear directly from individuals, interest groups, NGOs, communities, companies and others on their views on the proposals as we move to strengthen our regulatory approach.”

The new proposals include:

  • A new, tighter standard for the organic waste deposited by fish farms.
  • A more powerful modelling using the best available science, replacing 15 year old framework.
  • An enhanced environmental monitoring and creation of new SEPA enforcement unit to ensure compliance is non-negotiable.
  • A new interim approach for controlling the use of Emamectin Benzoate, pending UK Technical Group recommendations to Scottish Government.
  • A new approach could allow for larger farms than traditionally approved, provided they are appropriately sited in sustainable locations.
  • A Scotland-wide consultation events across November and December.

The consultation closes on 24th of December 2018 and can be found at this link: Finfish Aquaculture Sector Planfish farm

Reporter: Fiona Grahame

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