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Tuesday, 19 September, 2000, 05:43 GMT 06:43 UK
Clean-up warning to fish farmers
Fish farm on loch
Fish farms face a tougher regime
Scotland's fish farms look set to face tougher controls amid concerns that pollution incidents are rising.

The Scottish Parliament's rural affairs committee is due to consider a petition on Tuesday which calls for an inquiry into the issue.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) has drawn up proposals to revoke licences of fish farms which fail to take action after pollution incidents.

Kevin Dunion
Kevin Dunnion: "Coastal waters continue to be contaminated"
Environmental campaigners, Friends of the Earth, said the number of water contamination incidents is at a two-year high.

Scottish director, Kevin Dunnion, welcomed Sepa's move but said a parliamentary inquiry was urgently needed.

"Until the parliament addresses the problems and announces an inquiry, Scottish coastal waters will continue to be plagued by the discharge of contaminated wastes, including a cocktail of toxic chemicals," he insisted.

'Significant damage'

The petition going before the rural affairs committee has been organised by the former chairman of the Association of Scottish Shellfish Growers Association, Allan Berry.

Mr Berry, who farms at Loch Sween, requests: "That parliament holds an independent and public inquiry into... the regulatory failure to recognise and prevent significant damage to our natural heritage."

Meanwhile, Sepa said it decided to act partly because of growing public concern about the impact on the environment.

Kevin Dunion
Kevin Dunnion: "Coastal waters continue to be contaminated"
A major proposed change in the regulation of fish farming is likely to be approved by the agency's management board.

Sepa wants to close a loophole in the current law, which allows fish farmers to expand existing sites without making the environmental assessments that they would need to establish a new site.

The agency said that only very occasionally were applications now made to establish new sites.

The agency's more proactive stance comes as it imposes a tougher anti-pollution regime covering a wide range of industries.

Recently it has been involved in training for the Crown Office in the legal detail of anti-pollution laws in an attempt to secure more prosecutions.

Concern has been expressed by environmentalists that the courts have not been imposing stiff enough sentences on firms convicted of pollution incidents.

In theory, fines of up to 20,000 can be handed down but FoE said recent punishments rarely even reach four figures.

Mr Dunnion said the present situation amounted to a polluters' charter. "It is cheaper to continue to pollute and be fined. The fines are no deterrent at all."

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See also:

13 Jun 00 | Scotland
MSPs announce fish farm probe
04 Nov 99 | Scotland
Lethal fish infection spreads
09 Aug 99 | Scotland
Fish farming 'damaging' wild stocks
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