Toxic pesticides from fish farms that can harm wildlife and human health have contaminated seven lochs around the Western Isles according to Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA).
The SEPA data was obtained via freedom of information request by anti-fish farming campaigner Don Staniford, Global Alliance Against Industrial Aquaculture; and shows that at least 45 lochs around Scotland have been contaminated, according to a report published in the Sunday Herald (February 26th).
The lochs affected by the chemical pollution in the Western Isles include Loch East Tarbert; Loch Boisdale; Loch Erisort; Loch Roag; Loch Seaforth; Loch Shell, and Loch Skipport.
The SEPA information released was built on the results of over 1,200 sampling operations at about 280 fish farms, and revealed that levels of chemicals used to kill the sea lice which plague caged salmon have breached environmental safety limits more than a hundred times in the last ten years, with levels of anti-sea lice pesticides found in sediment 100m away from salmon cages exceeded environmental quality standards between 2006 and 2016.
The main pesticide detected was emamectin benzoate which, according to SEPA, 'is toxic to birds, mammals, fish and other aquatic organisms, particularly those living on the sea bed', reads the Herald report.
Of its effects on human health, SEPA said: “Exposure to emamectin benzoate may cause irritation of the respiratory tract, eyes and skin. Animal studies suggest that exposure to emamectin benzoate may also cause tremors.”
A formal complain is now being lodged with the European Commission by campaigners who believe the emamectin breaches contravene environmental law.
And calls are being made for SEPA to do more about the contamination, which has been termed a 'toxic timebomb'.
Speaking to the Sunday Herald, Don Staniford, Global Alliance Against Industrial Aquaculture, said: “Toxic chemicals from salmon farms have flooded Scottish lochs for over three decades contaminating shellfish and the seabed.
“Scottish salmon farming is a toxic timebomb.
“Breaches of environmental standards for chemical pollution under salmon farms are no becoming standard practice as SEPA shamefully turns a blind eye.”
In response, a SEPA spokesman said that contamination found 100m from salmon cages was unlikely to spread a significant distance, and that: “SEPA's enforcement philosophy is to use the minimum amount of formal regulation necessary to secure compliance.”