Newsletter No22 December 2019
Friends of the Sound of Jura is now a registered charity!
We are very pleased to announce that Friends of the Sound of Jura (FoSoJ) has become a SCIO, which is a Scottish registered charity. When we formed in January 2017 we soon realised how rare it is for the opinions of coastal people to be heard or given due weight when it comes to issues affecting the area’s wildlife and local sustainable economy. Since those early days of campaigning against the inappropriate fish farm proposal at Dounie we have aimed to inform and help our local community to express its opinions and to campaign more widely for marine conservation and the sustainable use of the sea we all share. As a Scottish registered charity we have more weight to carry out our objectives which are:
To raise awareness in our community, and beyond, of issues affecting life in the sea and its sustainable use.
To preserve and enhance the outstanding natural diversity of the Sound of Jura and the Loch Sween area, while promoting a sustainable local economy.
To seek closer engagement with organisations and individuals whose actions will affect our marine environment and to represent our community’s opinions on this.
To educate future generations on the need for marine conservation.
Hope Spot nomination
In June, Argyll Coast and Islands became the mainland UK’s first Mission Blue Hope Spot – part of a growing global network of marine protected areas, nominated by local communities to whom they matter https://mission-blue.org/hope-spots/ .Friends of the Sound of Jura, CROMACH, Save Seil Sound and CAOLAS nominated this area, believing that the international recognition of a Hope Spot will enhance the local conservation designations on our doorstep and shine a spotlight on how critical they are for preserving the special marine wildlife and habitats. We particularly hope to use this international recognition of our outstanding area to bring economic and other benefits to local coastal communities.
The Hope Spot covers a number of protected areas, including the Loch Sunart to Sound of Jura Marine Protected Area (or MPA), Firth of Lorn Special Area of Conservation (or SAC) and Loch Sunart MPA & SAC. The Argyll Coast and Islands Hope Spot provides a new way to celebrate and champion these special places. This is one of the most biologically diverse marine environments in Scotland and the UK, and it joins an impressive and growing list of Hope Spots around the world.
The Hope Spot was officially launched on 8 June 2019, on World Oceans Day. The launch was preceded by a series of local events, e.g. a launch talk at Craignish Village Hall, and an official reception for MSPs at the Scottish Parliament.
Dr. Sylvia Earle, founder of Mission Blue, said: “The Argyll Coast is a place of great beauty but also of great importance. It’s home to not only great people, with a love and appreciation for the sea, but of such a wonderful mix of creatures, from marine mammals; the dolphins, whales and seals to otters and birds. And, of course, what’s under the surface, like the flapper skate, which is more endangered than the giant panda. Thank you for doing what you’re doing to ensure a healthy future for the Argyll Coast and for the rest of the world’s oceans. Congratulations on the first Hope Spot in Scotland and mainland United Kingdom!”
To find out more, visit the Argyll Coast & Islands Hope Spot’s dedicated website:
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ArgyllHopeSpot
Twitter account: https://twitter.com/ArgyllHopeSpot
and Instagram account: https://Instagram.com/argyllhopespot
Salmon farming update
Friends of the Sound of Jura is not against fish farming on principle. Wild fish stocks are falling as the human population rises and aquaculture is inevitably going to play a role in providing food. It also creates valuable jobs in communities like ours, but our community depends on the health of the sea that surrounds us and we believe that fish farming can and should be done without polluting the sea, affecting other marine life, or treating the farmed fish badly, so we are engaging with policy and decision makers to achieve this.
The environmental impact of the salmon farming industry has been big news over the last year, with inquiries carried out by the Scottish Parliament’s Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform (ECCLR) and Rural Economy and Connectivity (REC) Committees.
SEPA has also implemented a new Finfish Aquaculture Sector Plan and regulations.
Many FoSoJ supporters took part in the consultation on SEPA’s new regulations, which have now come into force. The new fin fish regulatory framework is reportedly going to "strengthen the protection of the marine environment for the people of Scotland” and has been accepted by the industry. It does make some improvements but it also allows the industry to expand while continuing to use open nets, which are the cause of many of its worst impacts.
Fish farming is the biggest polluter of Scotland’s seas and the new regulations do next to nothing to reduce this. In fact FoSoJ and others believe that loopholes in the new framework are allowing pollution to increase overall. SEPA is said to have approved more than 60,000 tonnes more biomass of farmed fish since the summer.
Meanwhile the industry has also been pushing for environmental limits on the anti-sea louse pesticide emamectin benzoate to be 100 times weaker than recommended by the UK’s Technical Advisory Group (UKTAG).
FoSoJ is a member of The Coastal Community Network (CCN) https:/www.communitiesforseas.scot, and part of its Aquaculture sub-group, which is active on issues related to salmon farming, and other forms of aquaculture. Together the CCN groups hold a wealth of knowledge on the community perspective and local concerns around the environmental impacts of the salmon farming industry in Scotland. We have collected ample evidence to support the case for a temporary halt to expansion of the industry, until it is environmentally sustainable. This is consistent with the second recommendation of the REC Committee’s inquiry report, in November 2018.
‘…urgent and meaningful action needs to be taken to address regulatory deficiencies as well as fish health and environmental issues before the industry can expand.’
One year on from this report, we attended the fourth meeting between CCN and Marine Scotland (MS), with Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), mainly concerning the ongoing use of acoustic deterrent devices (ADDs) to scare seals away from salmon farms. These devices also disturb porpoises and other cetaceans, which is illegal in Scotland. MS can issue European Protected Species licences for the use of ADDs, when they might disturb cetaceans, but says this is unnecessary for fish farms, claiming that any disturbance is not deliberate and anyway is minimal. Several studies have shown that this is not true. In 2017 SNH advised MS that ADDs can disturb cetaceans and may cause hearing loss. We have been raising this issue for more than a year but MS insists that the law is not being broken, saying that it is developing recommendations to Scottish Ministers about reducing disturbance. At the meeting, the CCN people present explained to MS’s new Head of Aquaculture that they will crowd fund for legal advice, and then consider a judicial review.
We have also continued to argue that salmon farming must be cleaned up, with MSPs, the Crown Estates Scotland, Argyll and Bute’s planners, the Soil Association and others.
One example is the proposed expansion of the Bagh Dail Nan Ceann (BDNC) salmon farm near Ardfern. The operators, MOWI (formerly Marine Harvest), already have planning permission to add new cages to this farm and to increase the biomass of salmon by 40%, to 3500 tonnes, making BDNC the largest single licensed farm in Scotland. MOWI has applied for the other key licence, from SEPA, allowing it to increase organic pollution at the site by 40%. SEPA recently announced its intention to grant a licence for half of this requested biomass increase, saying that its new pollution modelling software shows that the seabed will be able to cope with this much extra waste, even though the most recent seabed pollution impact monitoring report at the farm was borderline, with significant loss of marine life. It should be impossible to increase the fish biomass by 20% without the seabed deteriorating beyond its current borderline rating, but SEPA has enabled this expansion because its new regulations have moved the goalposts, allowing the larger amount of pollution to be spread over a larger area of seabed, when more cages are added to the farm.
MOWI has already applied for planning permission to add even more cages, which will spread the pollution even further, so we expect SEPA to licence the rest of the company’s desired expansion later on. SEPA has stated that the aim of its new regulations is to encourage large farms to use sites with high current flow, in order to disperse their waste, but the loophole of adding extra cages to spread more pollution more widely, also applies in sheltered sea lochs.
In January we will meet SEPA’s chief pollution modeler to ask why the agency thinks this is acceptable.
FoSoJ has joined other groups in requesting Scottish Ministers to “call in” SEPA’s decision on BDNC for review.
2019 was a disastrous year from BDNC and the other farms in and around Loch Shuna, with severe disease problems killing hundreds of thousands of fish. The survivors were killed early and sold. It is significant that BDNC had the highest mortality rate of all of MOWI’s Scottish farms (see below)
None of the regulators considering the plans to expand this and other local farms take proper account of the impact of increasing sea lice or diseases from the greater numbers of farmed fish on this area’s wild salmon and sea trout. Both species breed in the nearby River Add.
In November 2018 FoSoJ along with other coastal communities and businesses welcomed the Scottish Parliament’s amendment to the Crown Estate Scotland Bill which ensures that harvesting of wild kelp will only be legal where the plant itself will not be killed. This is the same principle which already applied for hand harvesters, who argued for consistency both on economic and environmental grounds. Creel fishermen and others also supported these measures because the species they catch rely on kelp habitats. Since then the government has set up a Seaweed Review Group but without the inclusion of the Coastal Communities Network. Marine Scotland recently published a set of papers from the Seaweed Review Steering Group's second meeting, which have sparked concerns that kelp dredging trials could start in 2020. Following a public outcry, the Scottish Government released a statement to explain that "no trials have been commissioned or are planned". This statement does, however, seem to contradict the Forward Work Programme, which clearly allocates time to "develop and commence field trials / pilot studies", starting July 2020. We await further clarification - until then, make sure to sign the petition against kelp dredging!
Kelp Farming Proposal in Argyll and Bute
In November Local Authority Argyll and Bute published a feasibility study for A&B becoming a national hub for farming seaweed. The Sound of Jura is identified as having suitable areas. Seaweed farming is less damaging than mechanical harvesting of wild kelp so we will look closely at the proposals and report back to FoSoJ’s supporters as soon as possible.
In 2014, the Scottish Government designated a suite of Marine Protected Areas. With reports of illegal incursions into MPAs, including our own, there is currently a critical need to ensure our MPAs and other inshore waters are being adequately managed, for the benefit of all. It is increasingly clear that the effectiveness, extent and enforcement of MPA management measures must be urgently reviewed.
During 2019, local businesses, fishing representatives and coastal communities including FoSoJ, have been speaking out about illegal scallop dredging within MPAs, as part of the Our Seas Campaign. http://www.ourseas.scot/
Letters were sent to the First Minister and the Conveners of the Scottish Parliament’s Environment Climate Change and Land Reform Committees calling for immediate action on illegal and damaging fishing activity. Their response was poor and the Our Seas campaign continues to put pressure on Marine Scotland and engage with MSPs and members of the ECCLR Committee.
There has been sustained media interest in this issue including coverage on BBC’s Country File and Channel 4 News.
In January FoSoJ will attend a meeting between CCN and Marine Scotland, about the Scottish Government’s review of the protection it gives the rarest seabed animals and habitats.
Citizen Science monitoring
We have been involved with SNH’s project to help communities survey their local seabed for marine life, and in June FoSoJ attended a hands-on demo day to trial equipment and methodologies. Demonstration sessions included Drop Down Video systems, Remotely Operated Vehicles and a live survey of an intertidal rocky shore, using the iNaturalist app to record and verify species. A monitoring method handbook has been published, and FoSoJ will have access to a free and shared “equipment library”. If you are interested in taking part in marine surveys please do get in touch!
SNH also did its own survey work in parts of the Sound of Jura this summer. We look forward to hearing the results during 2020. One snippet is that northern sea fans, the rare colonial animals that halted the Dounie fish farm proposal, were found around the north end of Jura. A 2500t farm is planned at Corpach Bay, on NW Jura.
In April Richard ‘RJ’ Lilly of Project Seagrass snorkeled with Friends of the Sound of Jura in seagrass meadows around the Taynish Peninsula (Loch Sween and Linne Mhuirich) and the two meadows in Carsaig Bay. In anticipation of Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters 2020, Project Seagrass is doing important work mapping out seagrass meadows in Scotland in order to identify and engage with meaningful restoration work. You can read RJ’s blog piece of his visit to the Sound of Jura here:
The Year of Coasts and Waters
Get ready for 2020, the Year of Coasts and Waters Year of Coasts and Waters in which Scotland's coasts and waters will be promoted and celebrated. Alongside the attractions, scenery and wildlife, Scotland will host an exciting array of tours, exhibitions, cultural performances, community activities and festivals that put Scotland's diverse coasts, canals, rivers and lochs into the spotlight.
Become a Volunteer!
We rely on our hard working team of volunteers and are always looking for people with a wide range of skills and experience, including media, applying for grants, project management, photography or marine science andeducation.
You can get involved on many levels – whether you want to do some desk research or campaigning from home. You don’t have to be on the shores of the Sound of Jura to get involved!
FoSoJ is also appealing for a volunteer to co-ordinate regular beach cleaning anywhere there is access to the shoreline on both sides of the Sound of Jura as well as Loch Sween.
If you would like to get involved with surveying our local seabed it would be great to hear from you.
Please email us with your details and what you can do.
Thank you so much.
Keep up to date with FoSoJ!