In March 2021, HIEF pledged £15,000 as a ‘safety net’ towards potential capped expenses which might be incurred pursuing a potential judicial review against the Scottish Government for failing to prevent salmon farms from using Acoustic Deterrent Devices (ADDs) without the required European Protected Species (EPS) licences – licences which could not be legitimately issued because of the accepted harms ADDs cause protected marine cetaceans!
Following changes in the legislative framework, in response to Brexit, &, based on updated legal advice, a petition was lodged with the new public authority watch dog body Environmental Standards Scotland (ESS) – one of the very first petitions to be lodged with the new body.
The petition detailed the Scottish Government’s failure to ensure the fish farming industry complied with the Habitats Regulations when allowing the industry to use ADDs & alleged that Marine Scotland’s investigation & enforcement actions were insufficient. Over the next 18months, correspondence went back & forth, but, finally, in August 2022 the ESS issued their report which made recommendations for improvements to Marine Scotland’s compliance process & also requested that Marine Scotland release public updates on the progress of their compliance works.
As a consequence of the petition to ESS, Marine Scotland has introduced more inspections & has moved away from allowing the industry to self-regulate its use of ADDs. Most importantly the referral to the ESS has meant that fish farmers, if they use an ADD anywhere in Scotland, either need to apply & receive an EPS licence under the Habitats Regulations or they need to prove that a licence is not required. Salmon farmers cannot now simply use ADDs & wait for Marine Scotland to challenge them because, following the ESS report, using an ADD without either applying for a licence or proving that a licence is not required, will result in enforcement action from Marine Scotland.
To date, no fish farmer has either applied for a licence or proved that a licence is not required. To that end, a de facto ban on the use of ADDs in salmon farming in Scotland has been achieved.