New powers given to Scottish environmental authorities to regulate wellboats

editorial staff

Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) takes on new powers to regulate chemical treatment residues from wellboats, to add to existing regulation of in-pen treatments. CEO said that “bringing control of all medicine discharges under SEPA’s regulatory role is a positive step”.

In a press release, SEPA writes that a transfer of powers has “streamlined regulation”, making it “easier to ensure combined discharges from fish farms and wellboats meet environmental standards”.

The change follows recommendations from the Independent Review of Aquaculture Consenting. Until now an operator would require a marine licence with Marine Scotland for discharges from wellboats, with a separate licence from SEPA for the same chemicals being used directly in fish farm cages.

“This dual regulation was considered unnecessarily complex and the 2016 Independent Review of Aquaculture Consenting recommended that the two be consolidated – this change marking the completion of this work,” wrote SEPA.

SEPA regulates discharges from finfish farms by issuing permits that limit the levels of pollutants that they discharge to the water environment. During 2021, SEPA plans to transfer all existing marine finfish farms on to the new Marine Pen Regulatory Framework. This will involve replace existing current permits with a new finfish farm permit.

SEPA’s Terry A’Hearn

Regulating discharges
Farms with an existing permission to discharge bath treatment medicine residues will have a permit that provides the option to make the discharge directly from the pens or via a wellboat at the farm. The current limits on the quantity of medicine residues that can be discharged, including via a combination of discharges from wellboat and pen, will not change. Once the new permit is in place, a spate wellboat permit will no longer be required and will be revoked. Where an existing CAR licences does not currently authorise discharge of chemical residues, an application to vary the permit would be required.

Fishfarm operators will be able to apply to SEPA from Monday 9 November for new authorisations, existing licenses will transfer on Monday 30 November.

“By regulating discharges from both wellboats and in cage treatments, SEPA will be able to more simply and easily ensure that any combined discharge meets environmental standards, even when operators wish to treat parts of their stock using different methods on the same day,” the agency wrote.

Following two Scottish Parliamentary inquiries and SEPA’s biggest ever public consultation, in 2019 the regulator introduced its Finfish Aquaculture Sector Plan and a Revised Regulatory Regime.

SEPA CEO Terry A’Hearn said that “bringing control of all medicine discharges under SEPA’s regulatory role is a positive step that will simplify the operation of discharge controls by enabling us to provide farms with a single, outcome-focused permit for all their discharges”.

“This change makes regulatory responsibilities clearer and the transfer from Marine Scotland to ourselves will allow us to respond directly to any concerns raised about the operation of wellboats at finfish farms.

“We have also discussed the proposed transfer with representatives of the sector who have indicated that they would like to work with us to explore opportunities for strengthened approaches to demonstrating and checking compliance for any such discharges – and for innovation, such as investment in medicine residue capture and treatment,” he concluded.

SEPA added that it will continue to work closely with Marine Scotland’s licencing team.


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