I have today raised concerns with the Government regarding the application by the Scottish Salmon Company to expand salmon production at their fish farm in Lamlash Bay, Arran.
The Scottish Salmon Company applied to the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) to increase the biomass of fish they are allowed to stock in their cages by 50% and to increase their depth by 20%. Increased biomass results in a significant rise in the number of fish, increasing potential for disease and parasites such as sea lice to be transmitted between individuals, increasing the need for antibiotic use and increasing deposits on the sea floor from uneaten food and waste. As Lamlash Bay is only moderately flushed by the sea a proportion of the pollution produced by the farm will be retained within the bay.
Higher incidence of disease and parasites is not only of concern to the fish within the cages but also to Scotland’s wild Salmon population and to the overall health of the area in which the farm is situated. There have been reports recently from Marine Harvest Ltd. that they have seen a 16% decrease in Scottish Salmon production due to accidental deaths caused by treatment for sea lice (which involves heating the water around the fish to a temperature they wouldn’t normally experience) and outbreaks of other diseases.
All of this would be of major concern in any area of inshore water around Scotland. To add to my concerns, the fish farm in Arran is situated well within the boundary of the South Arran Marine Protected Area.
Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are one of the mechanisms used to ensure protection of some of the most vulnerable species and habitats. The protected features of the South Arran MPA include burrowed mud, burrowing bivavles (which accumulate pollutants in the water) and Maerl beds. One of the causes of decline in Maerl beds - according to the Joint Nature Conservation Council - is aquaculture.
Scottish Natural Heritage says that the South Arran MPA "protects some of Scotland’s most important and productive seabed habitats". So the decision by SEPA to approve the extension of the fish farm really takes the P out of MPA.
Without proper protection MPAs and other marine environmental designations are nothing more than paper parks. The dangerous precident this application will set could have dire consequences for the MPA network as a whole and that is why I will be pushing the Government to call in this decision so that it can be reviewed and given the attention it deserves.