Campaigners call for halt on all salmon fish farm applications

Campaigners in Orkney have raised objections to plans approved by the council.

Campaigners call for halt on all salmon fish farm applications iStock

Campaigners are calling for an immediate ban on salmon fish farming developments in Scotland over environmental concerns.

It comes after a new salmon farm was approved on Papa Westray, in Orkney.

Despite objections, an application for the farm from Cooke Aquaculture Scotland Ltd was approved by signed off by the planning committee on Orkney Council.

A campaign group has written to Scotland’s environment minister Mairi McCallan to raise concerns over the development.

They have pointed to the findings of a report published in 2018 by the Scottish Parliament’s Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee on the impacts salmon farming.

The Committee said that it was “deeply concerned” that development and growth of the sector was taking place “without a full understanding of the environmental impacts”.

It also suggested that Scotland was at a “critical point” in considering how salmon farming develops in a sustainable way in relation to the environment.

Their report noted that the planned expansion of the industry over the next 10 to 15 years would place “huge pressure” on the environment.

The planning application made by Cooke Aquaculture to Orkney Council did not receive objections from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), the Papa Westray Community Council or the Orkney Trout Fishing Association.

It also met the council’s criteria including those set out as part of an independent environmental impact assessment.

Campaigners opposed to the plans, however, have criticised the planning process and warned of the impact on the environment of the farm.

The letter by the group to the environment minister read: “We have been astonished by Orkney Island Council’s decision on September 8 to allow one of the biggest fish farms in Scottish marine history to be given the go-ahead in the waters off East Moclett, North Sound, Papa Westray, Orkney.

“We are urging you to use your Scottish ministerial legal powers to halt this – and all other fish farm developments – until you align the considerable recommendations of the Scottish Parliament’s Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee report on the environmental impacts of salmon fishing, with the actual position in November 2022.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said that planning applications involving salmon farms are dealt with by local authorities.

“Aquaculture is a significant employer in Scotland’s rural and coastal communities and its wider UK and global supply chain,” he said.

“It provides well paid jobs and produces healthy, quality food that is enjoyed worldwide.

“We have established the Scottish Aquaculture Council which brings together key organisations from industry, environmental and community interests which will advise on future aquaculture policy.

“It will help ensure that Scotland’s aquaculture industry is diverse, competitive and economically viable – achieving its full potential and protecting a thriving marine ecosystem for future generations.”

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