Petition update


David & Jean Ainsley
Oban, SCT, United Kingdom

Feb 14, 2021 — 

Disturbance and injury to cetaceans (porpoise, dolphins and whales) by salmon farm Acoustic Deterrent Devices (ADDs) is an offence under Scottish law, some farms have been using ADDs for years, but Marine Scotland have never complied with their duty to enforce the law.
Unelected Marine Scotland­­ officials may soon grant European Protected Species (EPS) licences to fish farms allowing them to use Acoustic Deterrent Devices thus legalising the disturbance / injury. Marine Scotland’s aim is to conclude the licensing process by 1st March 2021, however they have left a paper trail of evidence of failure to comply with their duties and environmental protections continuing to this day.
EPS Licences can only be granted if there are “no satisfactory alternatives” to the use of ADDs. But there are “satisfactory alternatives”: farms in Tasmania, Turkey, British Columbia (where ADDs are banned) and some here in Scotland are already using double-skinned anti-predator nets with mesh size which does not endanger wildlife instead of ‘traditional’ single nets and ADDs (single nets of stronger materials may also be “satisfactory alternatives”).  Better netting has the added advantage of reducing escapes, the major factor in the decline in wild salmon. Marine Scotland have accepted that increased cost or inconvenience cannot be a factor.
A second strict test must be passed to grant licences. Cetaceans must be maintained at or restored to Favourable Conservation Status (FCS) despite the cumulative disturbance and injury caused by ADDs. Marine Scotland have published a model to calculate how many cetaceans will be disturbed and injured by the ADDs to be licenced. The model is demonstrably not scientifically robust and seriously underestimates the number of cetaceans harmed:
·      It underestimates the area of disturbance / injury by a factor of up to 9 times as compared with field studies.
·      It is based on the incorrect assumption that cetaceans are evenly distributed, ignoring studies which find that the habitats most important to porpoise are also the areas where ADDs are used.
·       ADDs within narrow channels and migration routes restrict cetacean access to nursery and feeding grounds much larger than the area directly impacted by the ADD.
·      The model uses a non-precautionary value of 120 decibels for disturbance, ignoring studies which recorded disturbance at 100 decibels and 96% exclusion at 113 decibels.
·      It assumes that farms use just one ADD, in practice farms use up to 20 ADDs per farm. Injury increases pro-rata with the number of ADDs used.
In our view these tests cannot be passed, and no reasonable authority could grant EPS licences to salmon farms. But are Marine Scotland a reasonable authority?
Marine Scotland officers must comply with the Nolan Principles but are failing to do so. They must act and take decisions solely in terms of the public interest, in an open and transparent manner, impartially, fairly and on merit, using the best evidence and without discrimination or bias.
They are accountable to the public for their decisions and actions and must submit themselves to the scrutiny necessary to ensure this.
Marine Scotland are responsible for enforcing the law protecting cetaceans but have never enforced that law. They failed to act on the evidence from their own conservation advisors, (Scottish Natural Heritage) that ADDs disturb and can injure cetaceans. They have not published the applications for EPS licences from fish farms to allow public scrutiny, despite our formal complaint 14.12.20 and 4 further emails with freedom of information questions. None of our questions have been answered and the EPS licence applications are still not available for public scrutiny.
Our experience with Marine Scotland parallels that of the Scottish Creel Fisherman’s Federation who won a landmark victory against Marine Scotland in January over a proposed pilot fishery to investigate the benefits of creeling as opposed to trawling. The final decision by the judge, Lady Poole, is robust and damning, she found the decision by Marine Scotland ‘so unreasonable no reasonable authority could have come to it’, and considered, ‘that frustrating the legitimate expectation I have found to exist is a misuse of the Scottish Ministers’ powers,’ and that their decision was ‘irrational.’
YOU CAN HELP porpoises, dolphins and whales by emailing all your MSPs asking them to stop Marine Scotland issuing EPS licences to legalise the use of ADDs by salmon farms. You are very welcome to use this update.
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