Set against an industry plan to double the size of the Scottish salmon farming sector has been a growing and vociferous coalition of organisations and campaigners opposed to these plans. A Scottish Parliament review was also extremely critical of both the salmon producers and the regulators for their current approach. Set against this has been the growing infestations of sealice and the huge declines of wild salmon. It will be interesting to see if the Minister’s latest statements will silence the industry critics.

Guardian ‘Scottish salmon farmers will be allowed to create supersized farms in return for accepting much stricter controls on parasites and marine pollution.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) has said it will no longer restrict the size of salmon farms as long as they meet tougher standards limiting chemical, faecal and organic waste pollution in surrounding seas.

Scottish ministers have also unveiled much stricter legal limits on the level of sea lice allowed on farmed fish, amid mounting anger about plagues of sea lice, a parasite that eats fish alive, killing wild Atlantic salmon.

The new measures are expected to see much larger farms placed in deeper water further off the Scottish coast, in part to replace smaller inshore fish farms that may be forced to move because of the tougher pollution tests.

At present fish farms have a ceiling of 2,500 tonnes of fish per site. That will no longer apply, but larger firms will only be authorised in areas that are more “exposed, more remote, deep-water locations with strong tides”, said SEPA.

Deeper open seas should lead to their waste – medicines and chemicals used to control disease and lice, fish faeces, and uneaten food – being much more quickly dispersed and less likely to pollute the seabed. However, deep sea sites are at much greater risk of storm damage and of bad weather preventing visits by fish farm workers. Fergus Ewing, the Scottish rural affairs minister, told Holyrood he would introduce legislation next year that would require fish farms to report sea lice levels every week, and for those figures to be published.

At the same time, the trigger for reporting sea lice incidents will be progressively lowered, first from three lice per fish down to an average of two, with the trigger for enforcement action falling from eight lice per fish down to four. This would allow earlier intervention and enforcement action, Ewing said. “These new measures signal a major shift from self- to statutory regulation,” he told MSPs. Click here to read more

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