An end to the unlawful use of Acoustic Deterrent Devices

A report issued last week by Environmental Standards Scotland in effect signals an end to the unlawful use of Acoustic Deterrent devices (ADDs) at Scotland salmon farms. ADDs, which are supposed to scare seals away from fish farms, also unlawfully  disturb cetaceans – harbour porpoises and dolphins –  which are protected species under the Habitats Regulations.

The Coastal Communities Network (CCN), which has for a long time campaigned against ADD use, is delighted with the case report from Environmental Standards Scotland, which is believed to be the first report of its kind from the new body, following a detailed referral to ESS made in November 2021 by Guy Linley-Adams Solicitor acting for CCN.

David Ainsley, from Sealife Adventures and supporter of CCN, says:

“This is a great result. Harbour porpoises and dolphins will enjoy greater protection as a result. Any salmon farmers who try to use ADDs must now expect enforcement action against them. CCN members will be watching – and indeed listening – for any lawbreaking and we encourage the general public, and any fish-farm employees,  to report any use of ADDs at once.”

The referral detailed the Scottish Government’s failure to ensure the fish farming industry complied with the Habitats Regulations when allowing the industry to use ADDs and alleged that Marine Scotland’s investigation and enforcement actions were insufficient.

Since the representation was made to ESS, Marine Scotland has introduced more inspections and has moved away from allowing the industry to self-regulating 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 and 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 and wait for Marine Scotland to challenge them because, following the EES intervention, using an ADD without either applying for a licence or proving that a licence is not required, will result now 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.

Guy Linley-Adams, solicitor to CCN, said

“At today’s date, there should be no use whatsoever of ADDs on salmon farms in Scotland.

We also consider that it will be impossible for fish farmers to prove that ADD use will not damage or harm cetaceans.  Further, it is impossible for Scottish Government to issue ADD licences under the Habitats Regulations, because there are many satisfactory alternatives to ADDs.

To that end, we have achieved a de facto ban on the use of acoustic deterrent devices in salmon farming.

We would like to thank the ESS. Their staff deserve very great credit for the speed with which they have dealt with this matter and for delivering an effective outcome in their first resolution of an environmental issue brought to them since they were established. This augurs well for Scotland.”