Lochaber fishery groups back call for moratorium on new salmon farms

Fishery groups want a moratorium on any new open cage marine salmon farms

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Fishery trusts and boards in Lochaber have backed a fresh demand for an immediate moratorium on any new open-cage marine salmon farms or any expansion of existing sites.

Both Lochaber District Salmon Fishery Board (LDSFB) and the Lochaber Fisheries Trust (LFT) joined 25 other environmental non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to back the call for a moratorium from Salmon and Trout Conservation Scotland (S&TC Scotland).

S&TC Scotland says that until current failings in the regulation of the salmon farming industry and the environmental problems caused – as identified by the Scottish Parliament’s Environment Climate Change and Land Reform (ECCLR) Committee – are resolved, there must be an immediate moratorium on any new marine open-cage fish farms or any expansion of existing fish farm sites.

The call for an immediate moratorium has been backed by Angling Trust, Argyll District Salmon Fishery Board, Argyll Fisheries Trust, Atlantic Salmon Trust, Community of Arran Seabed Trust, Fauna & Flora International, Fish Legal, Friends of Loch Etive, Friends of the Sound of Jura, Lochaber District Salmon Fishery Board (LDSFB), Lochaber Fisheries Trust (LFT), National Trust for Scotland, Orkney Trout Fishing Association, Outer Hebrides Fisheries Trust, S&TC Scotland, Scottish Anglers’ National Association, Salmon Aquaculture Reform Network Scotland, Save Seil Sound, Scottish Creel Fishermen’s Federation, Scottish Sea Angling Conservation Network, Sustainable Inshore Fisheries Trust, Scottish Salmon Think-Tank, Skye District Salmon Fishery Board, Skye & Lochalsh Environment Forum, Skye & Wester Ross Fisheries Trust, Wester Ross Area Salmon Fishery Board, and Whale and Dolphin Conservation.

Andrew Graham-Stewart, director of S&TC Scotland, said: ‘The all-party ECCLR Committee of the Scottish Parliament unanimously agreed its report in March and concluded that the current consenting and regulatory framework for the salmon farming industry is inadequate to address the environmental issues. They were not convinced the sector is being regulated sufficiently, or regulated sufficiently effectively, and made it clear that this needs to be addressed urgently because further expansion must be on an environmentally sustainable basis.

‘They also said that if the current issues are not addressed, this expansion will be unsustainable and may cause irrecoverable damage to the environment, concluding “the status quo is not an option”.’

This week, Jon Gibb, clerk to the LDSFB, said: ‘The Lochaber DSFB is supportive of a moratorium on the further expansion of poorly located inshore fish farms close to the mouths of wild salmon and sea trout rivers.

‘We would, however, like to see both a thriving farmed and wild fish sector in Scotland overseen by streamlined and robust regulatory regime that protects all aspects of the environment, including wild fish.

‘We feel that the future of Scottish salmon farming lies in offshore locations away from the paths of migrating salmon and foraging sea trout, or even in the closed containment seawater farms that are currently being trialled in Norway.

‘A staged process of relocation of sensitive inshore sites should be undertaken as soon as possible.’

LFT director Diane Baum also voiced concerns, saying: ‘New farms and expansions of existing farms have recently been permitted in and around Lochaber and we are aware of many others at the planning stage.

‘There is a real risk that Lochaber will be full of farms that have been allowed under a consenting and regulatory framework that is inadequate to address environmental issues.’

Last week, the Highland Council granted planning permission for two new salmon farms on Skye, and Guy Linley-Adams, solicitor for S&TC Scotland, said if planning departments do not believe that the firm conclusions of the ECCLR Committee’s report are sufficient to enable them to refuse such applications and so are carrying on with business as usual, then a moratorium is needed now.

‘If we agree with the MSPs on the ECCLR Committee that further expansion must be sustainable and that, unless current issues are addressed, any expansion will be unsustainable and may cause irrecoverable damage, there can be no other logical conclusion,’ he added.

Asked to comment, Marine Harvest business support manager Steve Bracken told the Lochaber Times: ‘The salmon industry will give evidence this week in the Scottish Parliament and we will then await the final outcome of the [Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee] inquiry later in July.’