Press release 22 August 2017
Update on proposed fish farm at Dounie, Sound of Jura
The Oban Times (17th August) reports that wild salmon numbers in the River Awe this year, and in some other west coast rivers, are at an all-time low, since records began in 1965. The Awe’s figures are about half their previous lowest. The Argyll District Salmon Fisheries Board and Salmon and Trout Conservation Scotland attribute this collapse mainly to harm done by sea lice from salmon farms.
Meanwhile SEPA are still considering an application made last December by Kames Fish Farms, for a licence to release pesticides and thousands of tonnes of waste (mainly fish faeces) from a proposed new salmon or rainbow trout farm at Dounie, near Crinan, on the Sound of Jura.
On the advice of SNH, SEPA has requested that Kames do a second biological seabed survey before any decision is made, to establish the distribution of rare animals (northern seafans and sponges) living on the seabed. Although some seafans appeared in Kames’ first seabed survey, the company failed to point them out. SNH say they are likely to be smothered by fish farm waste. This waste would be equivalent to the amount of sewage produced by Lochgilphead each year, dumped into the sea untreated.
SEPA’s new computer model shows that large amounts of waste will accumulate in the deep trench just offshore, which is home to critically endangered flapper skate. Dounie is inside a Marine Protected Area set up especially to protect the skate.
Even with a licence from SEPA, Kames will still have to seek planning permission from Argyll and Bute Council.
SEPA’s decision may be further delayed due to a scandal concerning one of the main anti-sea louse pesticides used by fish farmers (emamectin benzoate or SLICE), which has been shown by a recent study to kill crustaceans far from farm cages, including those caught by creel fishermen. SEPA are discussing new limits on its use. These may be set lower inside MPAs. The Scottish Government may overrule SEPA later. SEPA is also seeking to remove the cap on how many fish can be farmed at each site, currently 2500 tonnes (2.5x what’s allowed in Norway). The public consultation on this is open until the end of August.
At last Marine Scotland (the government agency responsible for protecting wild salmon/sea trout) has strengthening its advice on fish farm planning applications (eg in Loch Duich, in July), saying that sea lice do harm wild salmon and sea trout and that substantial numbers of sea lice may still be released, even when fish farms treat for them according to the industry’s code of good practice. This is an unprecedented admission.
A Scottish parliamentary inquiry into the environmental impact of fish farming has been announced, as ever more evidence comes to light that the anti-sea louse pesticides are not working, that 45 west coast lochs have now been polluted by their excessive use and that wild fish are being harmed by sea lice from farmed fish, It will start taking evidence in the spring.