The inquiry into fish farming has been ordered by the Public Petitions Committee, which accepted a petition on the subject from Mr Allan Berry, a member of the public. The inquiry will be the responsibility of the Rural Affairs Committee and the Transport & Environment Committee.

Berry’s petition is endorsed by organisations in 15 countries, many of whom have voiced concern about the rapid growth of sea cage fish farming in Scotland and a lack of regulatory controls.

Friends of the Earth (FoE) Scotland points out that the fish farming industry has grown considerably since the last inquiry in 1989/90. The organisation points out that production reached 110,784 tonnes in 1998, compared with 28,553 tonnes in 1989 but that the number of people employed by Scottish fish farms decreased slightly during the same period.

The group also seeks to undermine the assumption that more fish farming means more money entering the Scottish economy. In its statement of support for Berry’s petition, FoE Scotland points out that “foreign ownership [is] at over 50% and a further 30% of companies [operate] under contractual agreements ‘where the contracting company is under foreign ownership [and] the corresponding revenue does not accrue to Scotland'”.

Environmentalists identify four areas of environmental impacts they would like to see Scottish politicians address during the inquiry. These are:

  • chemical impacts – medicines released into the water to treat and control diseases such as sea lice
  • waste impacts – uneaten food and faeces released into the open sea without any pre-treatment
  • fish escapes – resulting in interbreeding between ‘fatter, less fit’ farm fish and wild salmon as well as hybridising with brown trout
  • physical & aesthetic impacts – some lochs becoming ‘littered’ with fish farms

“When it comes to escapes, there were more escapes from fish farms in the past year than there were wild salmon caught,” Don Staniford, FoE Scotland’s fish farming researcher told edie.

Allan Berry, who submitted the fish farming petition to the Public Petitions Committee is the ex-chair of the Association of Scottish Shellfish Growers.

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