Etive fish farm breaches rules

The Oban Times - - News -

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.’

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