The Scottish Inshore Fisheries Trust [SIFT[ has published an Information Pack - a document - which is a guide to aquaculture.
It says of the purpose behind this initiative: 'SIFT hopes this Pack will help to educate communities about which organisations do what tasks, where information can be found and what that data means.
'In so doing, the Pack will help communities have their voices taken into account in the aquaculture planning and management processes and will enable them to play a bigger part in the sustainable management of their local coastal waters.'
The overall balance in this document is objective and sound. It is that the aquaculture industry is important to Scotland - but not so important that the other interests like animal welfare, environmental protection, wild salmon fisheries and tourism can be set aside as lesser priorities.
Firstly, the Pack provides a focused definition of aquaculture: 'Aquaculture refers to the raising of aquatic organisms such as fish, molluscs, crustaceans, and aquatic plants in environments modified to produce enhanced harvest rates, and includes fish farms and hatcheries.'
In talking about the background to the issue and the rationale for the creation of this guide, the document says:
'Salmon farming is important to Scotland’s coastal economy; it provides infrastructure such as slipways that can be used by other local businesses, rental income from leases of land for access to sites, and employment.
'However other commercial activities contribute even more to Scotland’s coastal economy through a diverse range of sustainable businesses such as creeling, shellfish farming and diving, tourism and angling.
'It is becoming increasingly clear, as the Scottish salmon farming business expands, that conflicts can arise between salmon farming and these other activities. In particular through the spatial restrictions farms place upon commercial and recreational fishing interests, and the negative visual impacts that floating cages and concrete feeding towers and the culling of marine mammals have upon the tourism industry.
'In particular wild salmonid fishing interests have had very particular concerns that the expansion of aquaculture on the west coast of Scotland has been a significant contributory factor in the decline of many local wild salmon and sea trout populations.
'There is also evidence that some of the chemicals that salmon farms use to treat sea lice infesta- tions are being found in sediment surrounding the farms at levels exceeding those that have been set by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and that these chemicals may be damaging non target crustaceans such as prawns, lobsters and brown crab - the mainstays for the majority of inshore commercial fishermen.
'SIFT believes that Scotland’s coastal communities would benefit if there were greater public scrutiny of the salmon farming industry. As salmon farms increase in size and number their regulation should increase to match their growing environmental and economic impacts. Unfortunately, the monitoring regime has not kept pace with the expansion of the industry.
'For example, the number of sediment surveys carried out by SEPA to monitor the benthic (sea bed) impact of salmon farms has reduced significantly in recent years despite an increase in the amount of sea lice treatments being used. This Pack aims to help the public articulate their opinions about salmon farming, and in so doing should help the industry successfully co-exist with its coastal neighbours.'
The issue identified above - the decline of sediment surveying by the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency [SEPA] is a serious matter. This is so in terms of SEPA’s responsibilities and principally that this decline in its benthic monitoring is taking place against an exponential increase in salmon farming.
The full document is available here to download: Sift Aquaculture information pack_v03