Would you eat this?

The third anniversary of the Environment Committee’s Report into environmental impacts of salmon farming is marked by Scottish Ministers’ continuing inertia and failure to regulate salmon farming properly. The Parliamentary Report emphasised in March 2018 that “the status quo is not an option” and yet almost nothing has changed.

Salmon farming ad: 080321

Three years ago, the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform (ECCLR) Committee issued its highly critical report on the environmental impacts of salmon farming, noting in particular the extent of the industry’s unresolved environmental problems and the failure of Scottish Government to regulate it effectively. It emphasised that:

  • In the context of “the planned expansion of the industry over the next 10-15 years”, then “if the current issues are not addressed this expansion will be unsustainable and may cause irrecoverable damage to the environment.”
  • Aquaculture’s “further development and expansion must be on the basis of a precautionary approach and must be based on resolving the environmental problems. The status quo is not an option.”

Since 2018 close to 50,000 tonnes of additional salmon farm capacity has been granted planning permission and tens of thousands of tonnes of further additional capacity are pending imminent decisions on permission. However, since March 2018, there has been no discernible progress towards an effective and robust regulatory system.

Andrew Graham-Stewart, Director of Salmon and Trout Conservation Scotland (S&TCS), said:

“In light of the passage of time since the Parliamentary Inquiry and the absence of any meaningful regulation of the salmon farming industry, there can be no other plausible conclusion but that Scottish Government has decided to try to ignore the unequivocal recommendations of the Inquiry. By and large the regulatory status quo from three years ago remains in place.

One glaring example – there is still no Scottish public or regulatory authority charged with the statutory function of protecting wild fish from the negative interactions of salmon farming.”

Guy Linley-Adams, solicitor to S&TCS, added:

“It does appear that, by failing to act swiftly on the ECCLR Committee Report, the Scottish Government is trying to provide a window of opportunity for the salmon farming industry to expand rapidly, before any substantive changes to regulation are brought into effect. This is being done whatever the environmental cost to Scotland.

In January 2019, Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing committed to making ‘tangible early progress’ on the findings of the Inquiry. He has not honoured that commitment and it is very difficult to have any confidence that robust regulation, monitoring and enforcement is just around the corner.”

As appeared in The Herald on 06 March 2021.
As appeared in The Herald on 06 March 2021.