The Outer Hebrides Against Fish Farms (OHAFF) is claiming that the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) has actively colluded with the fish farming industry to protect financial interests.
The lobby group claim SEPA has enabled the continuation of known and proven harm to Scotland’s marine environments.
The criticism follows the publication of an article in The Sunday Herald on March 19th which detailed that SEPA had dropped plans to restrict the use of sea-lice treatment chemical SLICE (emamectin) after pressure from the fish farmers industry body.
The article said SEPA had identified that SLICE was causing severe harm to Scotland’s marine environment and planned to restrict use of the chemical but after interventions from the industry with warnings about the reputational and commercial impacts, the policy was dropped.
OHAFF spokesperson Peter Urpeth said: “This campaign has long warned that the unchecked use of SLICE in this industry is causing great harm to Scotland’s marine environments, and SEPA’s own evidence supports that claim.
“The licensing and use of this chemical, and the monitoring of compliance with regulations, is SEPA’s important job. Instead, SEPA have put aside their responsibilities to protect Scotland’s environment in favour of protecting the profits made by Scotland’s fish farmers.”
Mr Urpeth blasted: “SEPA must stop its shameful and cosy collusion with the industry and must now answer for its actions through a public enquiry.
“Scotland’s marine environment is already suffering from the impacts of salmon farming. Sea lice infestation, fish disease and pollution are rampant problems and without a fully independent and functioning environmental protection agency the impacts of the industry’s many problems will only increase.”
He concluded: “Scotland needs an environmental protect agency that is seen to be open and independent, what we have instead is an organisation that can seemingly be influenced in the shadows by industry lobbyists to change its policies.”
SEPA Chief Executive, Terry A’Hearn said: “I believe that what the public wants from SEPA as a regulator is action, not words, and that has been our priority.
“Our two key actions were to review licence limits for all fish farms, which we have started, and to commission further scientific research to provide additional, robust evidence to inform future action in relation to the use of SLICE.
“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.”
The Sunday Herald article on the subject can be found at://www.heraldscotland.com/news/homenews/