Ban fish farm sonic alarms say marine experts as dolphins and whales suffer
CAMPAIGNERS are calling for a ban on the use of underwater electronic “scarers” to keep seals away from fish farms because of the damage they may be doing to whales and dolphins.
The Acoustic Deterrent Devices (ADDS) are said to have a detrimental impact on cetaceans, including harbour porpoises and minke whales.
A new report authored by the Scottish Association of Marine Science (SAMS) examining “low frequency” ADDS is due to be published via the Scottish Aquaculture Research Forum (Sarf) later this month.
In response to complaints that ADDS used on Scottish salmon farms – 164 of which use the devices, according to the Scottish Government – are “recklessly disturbing” cetaceans and breaching the EC Habitats Directive, a “new generation” of low-frequency “cetacean friendly” models have been assessed by a Sarf project funded in 2016.
However, in a report on the environmental impact of salmon farming published in March, the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee recommended that “fish farms cannot use ADDS”.
In April, the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust’s written submission to the Scottish Parliament’s salmon farming inquiry cited new research on the impact of ADDS, even at low frequencies, on minke whales.
David Ainsley, a whale-watching tourist operator based in Argyll, said: “Turning down the volume of ADDS will not solve the problem.
“Lower frequency ADDS may be less disturbing for porpoise but worse for dolphins and minke whales. The use of ADDS by salmon farms constitutes ‘reckless disturbance’ and is an offence under Scottish law and the EU Habitats Directive.
“As with the shooting of seals there must be a zero tolerance to ADDS.
“All current ADDS, including the so-called ‘cetacean friendly’ models, emit very loud noises well above the reported thresholds for disturbance and hearing damage to cetaceans.”
Mr Ainsley, who filed a complaint with the European Commission in April, added: “This is why no ADDS can comply with the requirements of the law protecting cetaceans from disturbance and injury.
“Because ADDS are not very effective, seal shooting will continue until farms stop using ADDS and instead fit double-skinned anti-predator nets, as used in British Columbia where licenses are no longer being issued for ADDS.”
Salmon being netted on a Loch Linnhe farm.