Ariane Burgess, Scottish Green MSP for the Highlands & Islands region, has written to the Rural Affairs secretary Mairi Gougeon calling for urgent talks on tackling problems in Scotland’s under-fire salmon farming industry.
In the letter, written in her capacity as rural affairs spokesperson for the Scottish Greens, Ms Burgess said increasing numbers of farmed fish deaths, disease and suffering in Scotland’s waters are seeing conditions deteriorate amid delays in delivering hope for changes demanded by experts.
The Scottish Greens have previously called for a moratorium on salmon farm expansions but agreed to work with the Scottish Government and industry on improvements as part of its power sharing agreement.
But Ms Burgess says communities and environmental campaigners are becoming more and more frustrated with what they see as a lack of progress.
She now wants to put those concerns to the Minister.
In her letter, Ms Burgess says:
“I am writing to express the Scottish Green Parliamentary Group’s strong concern about the slow pace of reform of the fish farming industry.
“This is an important issue for our party members, constituents and environmental NGOs and is a growing concern for the public.
“I trust that we can work together to deliver urgent, meaningful action required to address the environmental impacts of the industry and reduce fish farmed deaths, disease and suffering.”
Among keys areas of concern she has raised, the Highlands and Islands MSP pointed to the possibility of removing exemptions for the aquaculture sector from the new National Planning Framework, using a spatial plan to ensure sites cannot be established in unsuitable areas, and applying rules from environmental watchdog SEPA on all fish farms.
Other issues in her letter lie around minimising harm to wild salmon, strategic planning to avoid long term environmental damage, penalties and enforcement for licence breaches, and reducing chemicals and waste among others listed.
“This programme has been delayed, and, given the deterioration of welfare and environmental standards that this year’s mortality rate in particular reflects, the commitments no longer appear to be adequate to the challenge at hand.”
More recently environmentalist Chris Packham has also supported calls for a halt to the expansion of the industry.