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Campaigning conservationists have accused a marine company of ‘gross negligence’ and commandeering a public beach.
Friends of Loch Creran claims Gael Force Fusion, formerly Fusion Marine, have been polluting beaches, bays and waters with their manufacturing waste for 10 years from their Barcaldine site and that Marine Scotland and SEPA are doing nothing to stop them.
A six-minute video on social media showing plastic waste, polystyrene and frayed rope fibres on Teithil Beach was viewed by hundreds of people within hours of being posted.
Recent storms washed up ‘a legacy of historic waste’ along the loch shores say campaigners, who linked much of it to Gael Force Fusion, in particular the shavings from smoothed-off ends of black plastic pipes used to make the fish cages.
Just days after the film was released, Teithil Beach had been tidied with chains anchoring fish cages to the beach, instead of using fraying ropes adding to the worrying heaps of micro-fibres, said Andrew Holder and Maggie Brotherston from Friends of Loch Creran who have been monitoring the area.
Friends of Loch Creran say Gael Force Fusion, which employs 40 people at the site, has taken its eye off the ball again.
‘It’s quite evident they are being grossly negligent,’ said Mr Holder who added: ‘They’ve only cleaned up now because they were shamed into it by our film.’
The Friends group say Gael Force Fusion is making ‘clear breaches’ of the Environmental Protection Act. Knowingly allowing waste to get into the water causing pollution is breaking the law, they told The Oban Times.
‘This is a public beach, it’s not a factory space but Gael Force Fusion has commandeered it and there are clear breaches of the law. We have invited SEPA and Marine Scotland to come and have a look at the pollution washing up but as yet they’ve not taken us up on the offer,’ said Mr Holder.
Gael Force Fusion plans to move its manufacturing further round the loch to the former Sealife Centre but the Friends group is aghast.
‘They should be on an industrial estate somewhere, enclosed and well away from the water – not further up the loch. This is a marine special protection area’ said Ms Brotherston.
‘We want them to take responsibility for the 10 years they have been here and polluting. We want some confidence they will clear up the historic waste, whatever it takes,’ said Mr Holder.
Marc Wilson, spokesperson for Gael Force Fusion, part of Gael Force Group said Marine Scotland had confirmed that a marine licence for building and launching pens from Barcaldine was not needed and said SEPA, although continuing to scrutinise processes on the site, had also visited and was satisfied.
A SEPA spokesperson said officers had previously responded to complaints and had ‘substantiated unacceptable waste practices at the site, provided clear instructions regarding duty of care requirements and have confirmed steps being taken by the business to prevent further releases of plastic into the environment.
SEPA will also be conducting a follow-up inspection with Scottish Natural Heritage and is also in discussions with Marine Scotland about the issue.
Marine Scotland confirmed to The Oban Times it did not consider a licence was necessary for the assembly of the fish cages.
Mr Wilson said ‘much improved’ processes have been implemented by the business to capture waste from production and no level of littering was acceptable.
He also said the video highlighted ‘a genuine opportunity for improvement which we appreciate and agree with’ and that reviews of using ropes and how polystyrene is used and stored had ‘immediately commenced’ to ‘ensure that what is portrayed in the video does not happen again’.
Gael Force Fusion’s new site at St Columba’s Bay will be designed to make sure any debris can be captured and collected more easily and sent for recycling.