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Mass Breakout from Local Fish Farm

The proprietor of the Mains of Taymouth at Kenmore, Robin Menzies, raised an alarm over a recent rainbow trout break-out from the fish farm at Acharn on the south side of Loch Tay.
He wrote to Neil Purvis of the Marine Laboratories in Aberdeen to see if any action can be taken regarding the mass of rainbows that are currently in Loch Tay and the river at Kenmore. “I do not feel comfortable doing this,” reported Robin, “as the fish farm employs locals and is a local enterprise. But it is a worrying and ongoing situation.”
Robin pointed out that the escapes seem to happen regularly and to varying degrees. “This latest escape must be huge,” he added.

 

The fish pictured here were all caught within a one hour period three miles away from the farm nets. Over the weekend at the end of April he personally saw over 1000 caught fish that came from just 300 yards of river bank fishing. “How many more must there be over the whole system?” he asked.

Damage
Along with other locals and concerned interests, Robin maintained that word of these escapes spreads rapidly and attracts undesirable fishermen with their associated problems to the area. These include non payment for permits, parking and traffic flow difficulties, fires, litter, environmental damage and wild camping, plus friction with riparian owners.
“My main concern is the unseen damage that this is doing to the ecology of the river,” explained Robin, “for theses escapees must compete with the natural salmon and trout.”
In his letter to the laboratories he concluded that: “It has been impossible so far to get any body to address this serious pollution problem, and I would be delighted if you could coordinate an investigation.”

Clarification Sought
To seek clarification on the matter, Comment emailed the lab in Aberdeen on 7 May as follows:
“We are given to understand that an escape, of itself, is not an offence but that the failure to report it is. We gather that, at the time of the visit, the escape had not yet been logged and that your representative, Mr Daniel Pendry, was on his way to the fish farm.

p “Could you please confirm that the farm, presumably formerly in ignorance of the occurrence, has since reported it.
p “Would you also advise whether there is a time limit within which these events must be intimated before liability is incurred by the operators.
p “If this is so, please would you indicate what that timescale is, and what sanctions are faced for failure to comply.
p “What overseeing body has the authority to act to protect the interests of communities and their local environment from the deleterious effects of bad management of these production units.”

Response

On 17 May the following reply was received:

A fish farming business operating in Loch Tay has notified SEERAD/Scottish Ministers of circumstances which may have led to an escape. Subsequent checks of equipment undertaken by the operator led them to believe that no fish had be lost.

· In 2002 Scottish Ministers introduced mandatory notification procedures and guidance that apply to all finfish farms in Scotland. The Registration of Fish Farming and Shellfish Farming Business Order 1985 (as amended by Scottish Statutory Instrument number 2002/193 itself amended by SSI No. 2002/220) require that the Scottish Ministers be notified in writing immediately where there is cause to suspect that there is significant risk that an escape has occurred. The order has been further updated and is expected to be laid before the Scottish Parliament by summer 2007.

· Examples of incidents/circumstance which gave rise to a significant risk of an escape include; a tear in the net, or the presence of fish in the vicinity of the farm site or surrounding area which may or may not be farmed fish. The operator will check site integrity and /or undertake counts depending on circumstance and subsequently notify SEERAD whether they believe an escape has occurred or not.

· The fish farm operator must inform Scottish Ministers as soon as possible after the event by submitting the Initial Notification Form. This must be followed up with a Final Notification Form which must be submitted within 28 days from the date on the Initial Notification Form.

· The Aquaculture and Fisheries (Scotland) Bill was passed by the Scottish Parliament on 01 March 2007 and received Royal Assent on 05 April 2007. The Aquaculture and Fisheries (Scotland) Act 2007 makes provision in relation to fish farms and shellfish farms; including provisions for tackling sea lice and fish farm escapes. It introduces powers which will eradicate bad practice by underpinning the industry’s own code of practice. It introduces a duty on fish farmers to collect, retain and make available for inspection, information relating to the containment of fish. It also introduces powers to allow inspectors access to ascertain whether fish have escaped from a farm and to investigate the risk of potential escapes. It allows enforcement action to be taken where farms do not have satisfactory measures in place to contain fish.

· The Executive has considered the issue of non reporting of escapes.

· The Inspectorate dealing with containment and escape issues under the Aquaculture & Fisheries (Scotland) Act will take on the role of reporting body, where a company has failed to comply with the requirements of The Registration of Fish Farming and Shellfish Farming Businesses Amendment (Scotland) Order 2002.

· Failure to notify Scottish Ministers of an escape from a fish farm will lead to a report going to the Procurator Fiscal.

 

 
 
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