New aquaculture regulations for Scotland; Salmon farms could get bigger

A new, evidence-based regulatory framework has been introduced for Scotland’s finfish aquaculture sector by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA).

Launched following 22 months of work by SEPA, the framework implements proposals announced in November 2018, which were subject to a country-wide consultation. According to the public body, it takes advantage of more accurate computer-modeling approaches that will improve understanding of the risks to the local environment and allow assessment of the larger-scale impacts including interactions with other farms. 

SEPA acknowledged that the science about fish-farming is “very complex” and said that the new approach would bring the sector up to date with the modeling practices used for other industrial sectors where there is a longer history of operation and analysis.

SEPA Chief Executive Terry A’Hearn said the new framework was an “important milestone” for the sector. 

“It makes powerfully clear our aspirations and requirement that the industry reach and maintain full compliance with Scotland’s environmental protection laws, where SEPA will help those investing in innovation and moving beyond compliance,” he said.

The combination of a new standard, a more accurate model, and enhanced monitoring will allow the siting of farms in the most appropriate areas where the environment can assimilate wastes. It will also encourage producers to site and operate fish farms in less environmentally sensitive waters and use improved practices and technologies, such as containment, to reduce environmental impacts.

SEPA said it may allow for the approval of larger farms than would have been approved previously, provided they are appropriately sited in sustainable locations.

Operators are now required to invest in more accurate monitoring, including of waste coming from their fish farms. Officers are already engaged in a program of unannounced visits to confirm compliance with regulatory requirements. SEPA will also increase and strengthen monitoring of the impact of fish farms in surrounding areas.

SEPA is now considering whether moving to using a feed limit or retaining a biomass limit in the permit is the most effective parameter to use to regulate the scale of impact from fish farms. Over the next three months, it will consult with all interested stakeholders on these options before a final decision is made. 

In the interim, organic waste releases will continue to be limited using fish biomass.

Photo courtesy of Scottish Environment Protection Agency


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