Press release 17 November 2017

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Community group welcomes recommendation by statutory consultee on proposed Dounie fish farm

Local group Friends of the Sound of Jura, formed to promote marine conservation in the area, has said it welcomes recent advice by SNH that the siting of a proposed industrial-sized fish farm would significantly harm marine features of global importance.

The proposal submitted by Kames Fish Farming Ltd in December 2016 indicated that the fish farm would deposit thousands of tonnes of untreated faeces and organic waste directly into the recently established Marine Protected Area (MPA). SNH, the statutory public authority, requested further sea bed surveys to discover whether susceptible marine wildlife was present in the affected area.

This underwater video survey was carried out in August 2017 and showed the proposed farm site was home to abundant populations of the very rare Northern Sea Fan (Swiftia pallidia) which is a Priority Marine Feature (PMF) in the MPA.  It is known that they are highly sensitive to the deposition of organic waste associated with fish farms.

SNH examined the video footage and concluded that “the area of highest quality Northern Sea Fan and Sponge Communities habitat is restricted to within very close proximity to the proposed fish farm. It is likely that this restricted area of high quality habitat will be lost or significantly degraded as a result of this proposal. This colony is the most southerly known record of this biotope that SNH are aware of.”

In their formal advice to SEPA, SNH advised “that the proposed development will result in a significant impact on the national status of the Northern Sea Fan and Sponge Communities PMF and is therefore contrary to Policy Gen 9(b) of the National Marine Plan which states that “development and use of the marine environment must not result in significant impact on the national status of Priority Marine Features.”

A spokesperson for Friends of the Sound of Jura said: “This is great news. We knew the Sound of Jura was a special place, and now we have confirmation that a globally important priority marine species thrives here. Surely SEPA  will not grant Kames a licence to discharge pollution on top of this amazing colony of sea fans.”

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The Sound of Jura is home to some of the most fascinating and diverse marine life in Scotland.  We seek to protect the Sound, the River Add and their local users from threats to the area’s wildlife and local sustainable economy.