Tightening controls on fish-farming

Tightening controls on fish-farming

Marine Pollution Bulletin Government lack of foresight, an unwillingness to inject money into effective pollution controls, a laissez faire policy to...

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Marine Pollution Bulletin

Government lack of foresight, an unwillingness to inject money into effective pollution controls, a laissez faire policy towards industrialists and farmers in enforcing controls, but most discrediting of all an unwillingness to back up the researches of independent scientists whose voices could have been used with such political weight, have created a situation that should have been prevented, The arguing has stopped and has been replaced by sober reality. We now see that local 'environmentalists' branded in the 1970s as irresponsible were and are no more than careful scientists, extrapolating their data, comparing it with studies from elsewhere and forecast-

hag disaster. They have been vindicated. The Environmental Protection Officer (Water) can be quoted again from the November article: "Obviously we are doing everything we can but it would have been nice to have started earlier". There is not a marine researcher in Hong Kong who did not raise his eyebrows at this little gem, but, now is not the time to say 'told you so'; it is time to work together. It may also be time for the Hong Kong Government to perhaps listen a little more carefully to independent warnings about other marine pollution problems in Hong Kong. But that, as they say, is another editorial. B R I A N MORTON

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prevent the destruction of wildlife, in particular seals and birds, caught predating on farms. Predator control has also been the subject of a recent Marine Conservation Society report. Based on a study conducted on Scottish marine fish-farms, the report asserts that the industry may be losing up to £5 million each year as a direct result of predation while greater hidden losses may occur through stress and disease in fish caused by predators. An estimated 1050 seals, 200 herons and more than 2050 cormorants and shags die each year either by shooting or accidental drowning after becomingentangledinpredatornets.

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Much recent concern has been voiced over the environmental problems associated with Scotland's rapidly expanding fish-farming industry. Earlier this year the Scottish Wildlife and Countryside Link (a working group of 12 organizations including the Marine Conservation Society, National Trust for Scotland and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) produced a report calling upon the Government to introduce legislation to ensure that the environment is adequately protected as the industry continues to grow. In 1979 500 t of farmed salmon were produced. Last year this figure had risen to 13 000 t with production of 50 000 t yr -i estimated by the end of the decade. A £100 million turnover is predicted by 1990. In addition the industry has brought much-needed year-round jobs to communities in the Highlands and Islands. A large part of the Link report is devoted to pollution effects, both organic and chemical, and calls for more research in this area. For every 100 t of pelleted food dispensed, approximately 10 t sinks to the seabed as a deposit. In addition 5 t of nitrogenous compounds enter the water as soluble waste. Organic pollution effects are generally localized to around 50 m from the fish-cage site, but become progressively worse in areas without strong tidal flow. Commercial marine fish farming also necessitates the use of a wide variety of chemicals for reasons of husbandry, hygiene, and welfare (see Mar. Pollut. Bull. 19, 146) and at present there is little legislation controlling chemical usage or requirements to monitor their effects. Further recommendations made by Link include increased planning control by local authorities backed up by national planning guidelines, with the Government giving a clear lead to ensure a balance among economic, social, and environmental objectives. The report also calls for the provision of an advice service to provide guidance to the industry on environmental matters plus the introduction of stringent measures to 300

At the root of many of the identified problems is the consultation procedure operated by the Crown Estate Commissioners who are both developers and the licensing authority. Although in 1986 the Commissioners produced a series of guidelines these have failed to satisfy their critics. Recent permission granted for a salmon farm in Loch Nevis has infuriated local trawlermen because of their loss of access to a traditional winter fishing ground. The Commissioners neither publish the reasons for their decisions nor allow appeals. The present licensing procedure requires prospective farmers to apply to three separate authorities: the Commissioners for a seabed lease, local planners for shore installation permission, and river purification boards for pollution consents. The Nature Conservancy Council, along with the Countryside Commission and National Trust for Scotland, is calling for a new planning framework for fish-farming to be set in motion. These demands are lent urgency by an EEC law, due to come into force on 3 July, which demands an environmental assessment of 'significant' developments deemed to be potentially damaging. The Secretary of State for Scotland has yet to decide what size a 'significant' fish farm might be. Indeed as the Scottish Office continues to consider the evidence, it will have to move with considerable unaccustomed speed in order to comply with the law by July. A L E X A N D E R DUFF

Bonn on Dispersants At their Tenth Meeting, the Contracting Parties to the Bonn Agreement endorsed the proposal of their Tech-