Fish farm damage ‘beyond repair’
THE massive expansion of fish farms will damage Scotland’s marine environment “beyond repair” and seals near the sites are being unnecessarily culled to protect salmon stocks, MSP’S have claimed.
A Holyrood committee has said it is “deeply concerned” about the environmental impact of the salmon farming industry in a damning new report. MSPS on the Environment Committee concluded the status quo “is not an option” after holding an inquiry on the subject.
Production in the aquaculture industry is expected to increase from 163,000 tonnes in 2016 to 300,000-400,000 tonnes by 2030.
But the report found the industry is failing across a range of key areas with concerns over fish mortality and a lack of progress in tackling recognised problems, which is placing the future of Scottish marine exports in jeopardy in a key market.
Mark Ruskell MSP, environment spokesman for the Scottish Greens and a member of the Environment Committee, said the findings strengthen the case for a moratorium on new fish farm developments.
He added: “The salmon farming industry is breaking Scotland’s marine environment and aggressive expansion plans will damage it beyond repair.
“Salmon should be an iconic naturally produced food, but farming practice has become tarnished with widespread disease, chemical pollution and impacts on wild fish.
“This is a sector at breaking point driven by fantasy targets to double production by 2030 that bear no relation to the capacity of the environment to sustain that level of growth. The killing of protected seals and acoustic disturbance of dolphins is utterly unacceptable and it’s clear that Scotland faces a ban on all of our fisheries products to the US unless these practices are banned.”
The report was drawn up to help inform a wider investigation into the industry, which is due to be carried out by the Rural Economy Committee.
The committee was also said to be unconvinced that protected seals in the area of fish farms are only being shot as a final resort. It is feared failing to rule out the practice could lead to Scottish imports falling foul of the US Marine Mammal Protection Act which prohibits killing.
The report also finds that industry growth targets fail to take into account the capacity of the environment and that if not addressed expansion of the industry will be unsustainable and may cause irrecoverable damage.
The industry has come under increasing pressure to become more open about the environmental impact of its salmon farms, most of which are situated in west coast sea lochs and inshore waters. There are also concerns that high levels of fish mortality and infestations of sea lice could damage output, leading to higher production costs and pushing up prices for consumers.
The Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation (SSPO) recently confirmed plans to publish all data associated with sea lice counts on a farm-by-farm basis.
Scotland is the EU’S largest producer of farmed salmon and one of the top three producers globally, producing 162,817 tonnes in 2016. It is estimated that the industry supports more than 10,000 jobs.
Environment Committee convener Graeme Dey MSP said: “The sector continues to grow and expand with little meaningful thought given to the impact this will have on the environment. The status quo, in terms of approach and regulation, is not an option.”
This is a sector at breaking point driven by fantasy targets