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SEPA relaxes rules on salmon farmers

Lobbying by the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation over the past few days has resulted in Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) allowing to “take into account of the challenges faced by operators in its approach to compliance assessment and enforcement during this exceptional period”. The salmon farmers argue that with the likelihood of reduced staff during the Covid-19 pandemic and disrupted access to markets, then the fish may be required to be kept in the cages for longer, and this may impact on monitoring, fish health and fallowing.

SEPA said it recognised that, during a significant outbreak of Covid-19, the ability of operators to run their operations may be compromised. In doing so it “expects everyone it regulates to take all reasonable steps to remain in compliance with Scotland’s environmental laws. SEPA also expects operators to be preparing themselves as far as practical for the challenges of the Covid-19 outbreak with the aim of ensuring that impacts on the environment are minimised”.

The problems of salmon farming’s compliance to SEPA’s guidelines have been a major obstacle with the wild fish lobby, particularly over sea lice burdens on farmed salmon and the reporting of lice levels, and this news comes at a critical time for wild salmon smolts as they make their way from home rivers and down into the sea, where the fish farms are based. SEPA’s announcement follows January’s ‘Making Salmon a National Priority’, which highlighted the plight of wild salmon stocks and at which the SSPO attended, and it highlighted its desire to work more collaboratively with organisations such as the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organisation.

SEPA’s statement concludes with the provision that the “regulatory position may be subject to periodical review and may be varied or withdrawn by SEPA, for example in light of changes in circumstances during the outbreak; technological, regulatory or legislative changes; future government guidance; or experience of its use”.

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