Outer Hebrides Against Fish Farms (OHAFF) has called for an urgent enquiry into the relationship between the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) and the fish-farming industry.
And it has demanded the suspension of all staff at SEPA with decision-making powers which have an impact on aquaculture development and the protection of Scotland’s marine environment.
Claiming an alleged willingness to withhold damning environmental data from the public, as “the smoking gun of everything that is wrong in the relationship” between them, OHAFF claims the Sottish Government’s relationship to fish-farming companies has been one of “protection, secrecy and permissiveness – and collusion with the financial interests of Norwegian shareholders has been allowed to take precedence over the protection of Scotland’s marine environment.”
OHAFF spokesperson Peter Urpeth said: “Nothing but a full and independent enquiry into SEPA and the government’s links with fish farming industry will work to secure public confidence in SEPA – and the Scottish government’s ability to independently and effectively protect Scotland’s marine environments.
“We have long argued that the relationship is too close and that, as a consequence, the proper enforcement of regulation is failing, and secrecy and PR spin are being allowed to replace the proper processes of public awareness and scrutiny of this industry and its impacts.
“We all know that the industry’s methods means it is facing huge issues with the spread of disease, and we have also constantly highlighted the wider and damaging environmental impacts of excessive chemical use in our seas.
“That has to stop, and the government has to stop the culture of collusion with the industry before it is too late for the wider marine environment.”
A spokesperson for SEPA commented: “SEPA’s approach to regulation is clearly set out in our Regulatory Strategy, published last August, which we will implement independently, objectively and accountably.
“This is our focus. It’s for others to debate the broader opinions being expressed.”