Etive fish farm breaches rules
A LOCH Etive fish farm is being investigated by Scotland’s pollution watchdog for an ‘unpermitted use of a pesticide’ to control sea lice, which campaigners say coincided with a rise in dead fish.
The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA ) has launched a probe into Dawnfresh, one of the UK’s largest producers of fish and seafood, following a breach of its pollution licence, ‘where consecutive bath treatments with azamethiphos were carried out at Etive 6 less than 24 hours after the first treatment. These treatments are not in compliance with the site’s CAR [Controlled Activities Regulations] licence.
‘Appalled’ anti-fish farm campaigners from the Friends of Loch Etive (FoLE) group stated the release of the organophosphate, which is ‘highly toxic to marine crustaceans such as crabs, prawns and lobsters’, will have ‘ risked serious harm’ in Loch Etive’.
A FoLE spokesman said: ‘It isn’t that long ago, when Dawnfresh first applied for this new farm, that it was insisting that the new farm would not need to treat for sea lice at all. Now it appears that they cannot treat for sea lice without breaching their pollution control licences, damaging the wildlife of Loch Etive.’
According to a leaked document, SEPA said the treatments occurred on ‘a number of occasions in October, November and December 2016’. FoLE has pointed to a ‘simultaneous spike in farmed fish mortalities’.
‘Azamethiphos, when used incorrectly, can also kill the farmed fish,’ the spokesperson said. ‘Data recorded by SEPA on the weight of dead fish that have been removed from Dawnfresh farms during each month of 2016 shows that across Loch Etive as a whole, mortalities reached 50 tonnes per month in November, mostly at the Etive 6 farm.
‘The increase in mortalities at the Etive 6 fish farm occurred in the same month as the unpermitted use of azamethiphos by Dawnfresh.’
Dawnfresh’s farming director Stewart Hawthorn said: ‘It is disappointing that a protest group which claims to be interested in protecting Loch Etive and the people around it has chosen to seek national media headlines rather than simply approach us directly first.
‘The information which the group quotes is accurate but it is not confidential. We would have been happy to share it with them and discuss it in detail to increase their understanding and reassure local people that Dawnfresh always seeks to protect the natural environment while generating extensive local employment and investment. All they had to do was ask.
‘In 2016, we recorded a historically low number of sea lice in Loch Etive thanks to taking a more proactive approach to the problem. Unfortunately, there were six instances on one of our sites where we did not meet our usual high standards in the technical implementation of a treatment.
‘This is particularly frustrating for us because SEPA has confirmed that, without these very small number of errors, the site would have been rated as “excellent” in environmental compliance. We will be working with SEPA and our own team to ensure we have the lowest possible impact on the environment in the future.
‘Overall, we are proud of our record of environmental compliance. The other three operating sites on Loch Etive achieved ratings of excellent (two sites) and good (one site). Two further sites will not be operated again precisely because we do not feel we can do so while meeting the highest standards of environmental protection.’