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

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