Toxic pes­ti­cide ban is scrapped af­ter fish farm in­dus­try pres­sure

EN­VI­RON­MENT EDI­TOR

Sunday Herald - - 19.03.17 NEWS - Last month’s Sun­day Her­ald re­port

BY ROB ED­WARDS

THE Scot­tish En­vi­ron­ment Pro­tec­tion Agency se­cretly ditched a plan to ban a toxic pes­ti­cide killing wildlife af­ter pres­sure from the fish farm­ing in­dus­try. Sepa had been in­tend­ing to pre­vent salmon farm­ers from us­ing emamectin to kill sea lice in 2018, but dropped the idea when the Scot­tish Salmon Pro­duc­ers’ Or­gan­i­sa­tion (SSPO) warned that it would “un­der­mine com­mer­cial con­fi­dence in the in­dus­try”.

The Sun­day Her­ald re­vealed last month that emamectin and an­other fish­farm pes­ti­cide had pol­luted 45 lochs around Scot­land in breach of en­vi­ron­men­tal safety lim­its. We re­ported ear­lier this month that Sepa was plan­ning a “tight­en­ing” of rules for the pes­ti­cide.

But now, in re­sponse to a re­quest un­der Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion law, Sepa has re­leased a re­port that it had been plan­ning to pub­lish in Au­gust 2016. The re­port was sup­pressed af­ter in­tense pri­vate lob­by­ing by SSPO.

The re­port high­lighted con­cerns that emamectin could be killing crus­taceans such as crabs and lob­sters and that cur­rent en­vi­ron­men­tal safety as­sess­ments could be wrong. Stud­ies had found that the pes­ti­cide had spread fur­ther from salmon cages than ex­pected and was harm­ing se­abed wildlife.

Sepa was plan­ning to im­pose tighter re­stric­tions on the use of the pes­ti­cide for the next two years, the re­port dis­closed. Then it was likely that the abil­ity to use the chem­i­cal, mar­keted as Slice, “will be phased out com­pletely”.

The re­port stated: “We have in­formed fish-farm op­er­a­tors of Sepa’s po­si­tion that, un­less we see new and com­pelling ev­i­dence to sup­port con­tin­ued use, the abil­ity to use Slice is likely to be phased out in 2018.”

But this plan was not im­ple­mented – and the re­port not pub­lished – af­ter SSPO pri­vately cau­tioned Sepa that pub­li­ca­tion would trig­ger “me­dia scru­tiny which will seek to un­der­mine the in­dus­try’s rep­u­ta­tion and will prob­a­bly dam­age all of our rep­u­ta­tions”.

In­stead, ear­lier this month, Sepa pub­lished a state­ment that made no men­tion of a ban in 2018. “Sepa is re­view­ing all fish-farm li­cences per­mit­ting the use of Slice, tight­en­ing con­di­tions for the medicine’s use,” it said.

“This re­stric­tion will re­main in place while Sepa and the in­dus­try carry out fur­ther re­search.”

The Na­tional Trust for Scot­land called on Sepa to act now to pre­vent fur­ther dam­age to wildlife in pro­tected ar­eas. “I fail to un­der­stand how Sepa can jus­tify de­lay­ing ac­tion to ban this harm­ful en­vi­ron­men­tal toxin,” said the trust’s se­nior na­ture con­ser­va­tion ad­viser, Dr Richard Lux­moore.

“Many of the ex­ist­ing fish farms lie within spe­cial ar­eas of con­ser­va­tion and re­search by the Scot­tish As­so­ci­a­tion for Ma­rine Sci­ence con­cludes that the tox­ins dis­charged from the farms have al­ready harmed ma­rine over a large area.”

Guy Lin­ley-Adams, from Salmon and Trout Con­ser­va­tion Scot­land, ar­gued that the num­ber of salmon kept in cages should be re­duced: “It ap­pears that Sepa has been brow­beaten into al­low­ing ex­ces­sive treat­ment chem­i­cals to be used, which has dam­aged the ecol­ogy of the sea lochs, par­tic­u­larly wild crus­taceans such as crabs and lob­sters.”

The orig­i­nal Sepa re­port was ob­tained by Don Stan­i­ford from the Global Al­liance Against In­dus­trial Aqua­cul­ture. “Sepa should stop ab­jectly do­ing the bid­ding of the salmon farm­ing in­dus­try and ban the use of emamectin im­me­di­ately,” he said.

Sepa did not deny that the planned ban on emamectin had been dropped. “I am happy for Sepa to be ac­count­able for the out­come of those ac­tions,” said chief ex­ec­u­tive, Terry A’Hearn.

He added: “Sepa made its own de­ci­sion in Au­gust 2016 not to pub­lish a web­site ar­ti­cle about a sci­en­tific re­port.”

SSPO de­clined to com­ment. wildlife

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