Parliamentary report raises fears over impacts of salmon farming

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A Holyrood Committee has published a series of concerns about the environmental impacts of salmon farming in Scotland.

The Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee published the report today to help inform a wider inquiry into the current state of the industry, which is being carried out by the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee.

The report says the planned expansion of salmon farming over the next 10 to 15 years, which aims to grow the industry by 300,000 to 400,000 tonnes, is unsustainable and may, without changes in approach, cause ‘irrecoverable damage’.

The report adds that the committee is ‘deeply concerned’ that the growth of the sector is taking place without a full understanding of the environmental impacts.

The committee is not convinced the sector is being regulated sufficiently and this requires urgent attention.

It also says there are significant gaps in data, monitoring and research around the adverse risk the sector poses.

Committee convener Graeme Dey MSP said: ‘The sector has ambitious expansion targets but the committee is concerned as to how these can be achieved in an environmentally-sustainable way.

‘The sector continues to grow and expand with little meaningful thought given to the impact this will have on the environment. In the committee’s view, if the current environmental impact issues are not addressed, the expansion will be unsustainable and may cause irrecoverable damage.

‘The committee is supportive of aquaculture but expansion must be based on a precautionary approach and on resolving environmental problems. The status quo, in terms of approach and regulation, is not an option.

‘In raising awareness of the serious environmental concerns, the committee hopes to helpfully inform the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee’s upcoming wider scrutiny of the salmon industry in Scotland.’

Andrew Graham-Stewart, director of Salmon and Trout Conservation Scotland (STCS), said: ‘Salmon and Trout Conservation Scotland is delighted by the committee’s report.

‘This is a complete vindication of what we have been arguing for many years now, often in the face of denials and opposition from within the Scottish Government and Scottish public authorities, that open-cage salmon farming in sea lochs is way out of balance with the environment, particularly with the conservation of wild salmon and sea trout.

‘It was STCS’s formal petition to the Scottish Parliament in 2016 that has led us to this moment.

‘We are grateful to all the members of the Petitions Committee and the Environment Climate Change and Land Reform Committee, and we will now work with the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee in its forthcoming review of salmon farming to come up with the solutions.

‘For STCS, that must mean, in the medium term, moving the entire industry into closed containment, either on land or in marine structures built by Scottish marine engineering expertise.

‘However, in the short term, there must be an immediate moratorium on all new farms or any expansion of existing farms, until all impacts, including those on wild salmon and sea trout, are under proper control, which the committee clearly realises is not the case today.

‘We also need an urgent change in Scottish law to plug the gap that fails to protect wild salmon and sea trout from the damage caused by fish farms. At last, that legal gap has been recognised and MSPs now have a duty to enact new law as soon as they can to protect these species.’