Environment Sub Comm AGM Report 2018

Malcolm Thomson made comment on the planning application for the extension of the Cursiter quarry, following a request from a landowner on the Rossmyre burn.  There was potential for a new drain from the extended quarry to be diverted into the burn where it runs under the Old Finstown Road.  OTFA reserved the right to object if that was the case, however the last we heard the application had been withdrawn.

Malcolm obtained electrofishing licenses for Malcolm Thomson & James Bews from Marine Scotland for 2017.  Unfortunately, no electrofishing has been possible in the Boardhouse catchment in autumn 2017 due to time constraints.  Next possible opportunity is smolt survey in April 2018.    

OIC Pilot Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters (PFOW) Marine Spatial Plan 
Roseanna Cunningham, announced last year that the Orkney Islands should be the next region to create a Marine Planning Partnership and develop a statutory regional marine plan. The Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters marine spatial planning pilot considered appropriate governance arrangements and tried to explore ways to effectively deliver statutory regional marine plans. Now that the pilot process has been completed, OIC and Marine Scotland are working to develop a Marine Planning Partnership to deliver a future statutory regional marine plan for Orkney.  As this develops, OIC have told us that they would like to keep in touch with the original pilot stakeholders to keep them informed.

OIC Draft Aquaculture Plan Supplementary Guidance
MT, CK and SK met with James Green, OIC Marine Planning Officer to discuss the latest version of this document.  We did our best to get our points across, following up with one of the most robust and thorough written responses we’ve made as a local consultee.  Unfortunately, the actual document put to council appeared to leave plenty of words accommodating the government and aquaculture industry’s well publicised plans for expansion.  Of course, it all depends on how you wish to interpret the document. We do ultimately feel sorry for the local government officials who must navigate so many mixed messages from a plethora of stakeholders and a government who seem determined to protect and expand this industry, despite numerous long standing concerns.

Salmon Farm applications
The current rash of salmon farming applications locally is currently as listed below.

Hunda – refused by OIC, cumulative impact now seeming to attract attention at last, but main reason seeming to be navigational issues.  Appeal may yet occur. 
Lober - application paused due to SNH objection, awaiting the collection of data on wintering bird numbers.
Glimps - Awaiting decision but fairly severe objection from OIC Marine Services, who call for a cumulative impact study.
South Cava - extension awaiting a decision.
North Fara - EIA has been requested but have heard informally that OIC marine services likely to object for navigational reasons.

The push to fill every available potential site is unprecedented and as MT summarised in
our Hunda objection.  Malcolm wrote:
“The present tonnage of farmed salmon in Scapa Flow = 8210 tonnes (CAR licenced) from the following sites:
- Bring Head: 968 tonnes
- Chalmers Hope: 1000 tonnes
- Lyrawa Bay: 400 tonnes
- Pegal Bay: 400 tonnes
- West Fara: 800 tonnes
- South Cava: 1500 tonnes
- Toyness: 1342 tonnes
- Westerbister: 1800 tonnes
- Potential Increase in tonnage (current planning applications): 7700 tonnes, at the following sites:
- Glimps Holm: 1250 tonnes
- North Hunda: 1700 tonnes (since turned down by OIC – see above)
- Lober: 1250 tonnes
- North Fara: 2500 tonnes
- South Cava extension: 1000 tonnes
The facts are plain – if all current fish farm applications are successful, then the tonnage of farm salmon in the Scapa Flow area will almost double to approximately 16,000 tonnes. There is nowhere else in the United Kingdom where so much salmon is farmed in one enclosed body of water. The OIC has a clear responsibility to halt the increase in farmed salmon tonnage in the Scapa Flow area now and consider seriously the potential impact that this level of expansion could have on the marine environment of Scapa Flow. This would be to the benefit of the Orkney public, who enjoy the many amenities offered by the Flow, local fisheries (recreational and commercial) and the fish farming industry itself, which is struggling with disease management in most other areas of the country.”  Malcolm finished by stating that “We should not sit back and let the same thing happen in Scapa Flow.”
It is interesting to note that the following statement now appears in OIC documents lodged in several applications:

"It should be noted that OIC is currently assessing the scope, methodology and funding requirements for a potential aquaculture development capacity/cumulative impact study for Scapa Flow in consultation with key statutory agencies and stakeholders."

We can only hope now that the current government inquiry into the environmental impacts of salmon farming strongly and effectively addresses the many pressing issues surrounding this industry.  In this day in age our wild sea trout population deserves far better protection from aquaculture development that constantly claims to be sustainable.

Local Biodiversity Action Plan
OIC are in the process of writing a species action plan for sea trout to include in local biodiversity action plan.  A good sign but practical benefit remains to be seen.

Scottish Parliament Salmon Farming Inquiry
As mentioned above, a formal Petition, lodged in the Scottish Parliament in February 2016 by Salmon & Trout Conservation Scotland, seeking protection for wild salmonids from sea lice from Scottish salmon farms, has resulted in MSPs launching an Inquiry into the salmon farming industry in Scotland.  The Scottish Government’s Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee, review into the environmental impacts of salmon farming called for written evidence with a deadline of 8th Feb. 

A report (commissioned by the Scottish Government) already entered by the Scottish Association of Marine Science (SAMS) makes for interesting reading. See link:
This report doesn’t shy away from pointing out the obvious concerns across the board but uses very measured grammar and phrases that one suspects leaves plenty of scope to minimise any impacts on the industry.  At short notice we put together as comprehensive a response to this paper as we could.  We found some strange omissions and included as much information as the time allowed.  It would appear that there is another opportunity to submit further evidence in April.  We remain slightly concerned at the lack of information trickling down to grass roots angling associations like ourselves from the government and the press and need to keep a close eye on this.

Wild Fisheries Reform Bill
As you may be aware Roseanna Cunningham announced in February 2017 that the ambition of Wild Fisheries Reform bill would be reduced.  I can confirm that the bill has yet to go before parliament.  Amongst other things, rod licensing, any all species levy, Fisheries Management Organisations (FMO’s), any duty to deliver all species management and making fishing without right or legal permission a criminal offence, are all not to be taken forward.

The Scottish government still has ambitions to have full coverage of DSFBs in Scotland (but this does not extend to Orkney or Shetland).  They also still want to see some form of legal duty for fisheries management plans, but this would now sit with DSFBs rather than FMOs. There is still the possibility of a year 3 Bill (2018-19), but this is very much dependent on Brexit and associated legislation.

A new body, Fisheries Management Scotland represents Scotland’s network of District Salmon Fishery Boards, the River Tweed Commission and Rivers and Fisheries Trusts. We intend to keep in touch with the new body to keep up with any developments or issues that require our input or if we need any advice.

To finish, I’d like to reiterate that the push for increased tonnage of salmon farmed in these islands is unprecedented and I urge any member to voice their concern to their local councillor and MSP any chance they get.  In the age of the smart phone I also urge members to record any poorly conditioned or sea liced fish and forward to us through the management committee.

In the meantime, please fish responsibly and tight lines for 2018.

Colin Kirkpatrick
Chair Environment Sub Committee.