Environment Sub Committee AGM Report February 2023

It’s been good to be able to get back to a more normal existence through the last year with the lifting of most pandemic restrictions. This enabled amongst other things a number of sea trout sweep netting and sampling outings to take place with many volunteers offering their help.
Our main efforts as a sub-committee continue to be dominated by Salmon Farming.  For over twenty years we have contributed to numerous consultations with SEPA, SNH, The Crown Estate, Marine Scotland and the Scottish Government in general.  We’ve represented our concerns regarding our wild sea trout population to two Parliamentary Committee inquiries on aquaculture, both of whom published robustly critical reports encouraging reform in the regulation of the industry.  Despite this the ongoing trend is for industry expansion. 
Whilst we have to indulge in yet more consultation and “science” / evidence gathering, the industry is quietly determined to expand on existing sites.  Usually presented as a change-up of cage size and equipment layout, most of these applications come with a proposed massive increase in tonnage.
None of this sits well with wild fish interests in Scotland. The Scottish ECCLR Committee noted in their 2018 report that there had been little focus on the application of the precautionary principle in Aquaculture planning decisions in Scotland.  In Canada the Federal Fisheries Minister just refused to renew licences for 15 salmon Farms in British Columbia, siding firmly with the precautionary principle. 
The international drive for a more sustainable future for aquaculture, with self-containment ambitions high on that agenda, completely contradicts the sort of claims still being made by local industry representations.  For an industry which locally claimed on multiple occasions that they had no sea lice problem in Orkney, they now seem to be plagued by lice proliferations.  This only came to light officially with a recent obligation to record lice numbers on a central government website.   The amount of lice and disease treatment boats in action locally these last few years are testament to this scenario.
As representatives of our wild fish we often feel beleaguered, un-listened to and effectively ignored, so I would like to thank the dedicated members of this sub-committee for their resilience, continued hard work and faith in a better future. 
The following is a summary of our wider activities:

However, in order to effectively monitor lice numbers on wild sea trout, it is clear that a huge effort would be required as multiple sites would need to be surveyed on multiple occasions through the summer period.  The matter of just how much effort the OTFA should put into this endeavour will be discussed shortly, ahead of the 2023 season.  It is very likely that fish farm companies will be carrying out their own sweep netting, as at some sites, they have been made responsible for monitoring lice numbers on wild sea trout.  Not an ideal situation but one that has been introduced by regulators. 
Ideally the OTFA can continue to have some role in the wild fish monitoring to ensure it is done effectively. Thanks again to everyone who helped out with this very immersive activity.


access to the spawning habitat further upstream.  The Burn of Ireland is a relatively rare example on Mainland Orkney of a burn that retains a natural meander over most of its length and as a result is a productive sea trout burn.  Thanks to Neil Firth, Dave Cousins, Sandy Kerr, Neil Macleod and Malcolm Thomson for their work that day.


Good to be able to finish on a positive and proactive note.  A couple of kids have told me recently how much they enjoyed doing the daily duties of Trout in the Classroom with our late friend Kenny Macleod when he was helping at Stromness Primary, which was very nice to hear.
Finally, big thanks to Malcolm Thomson for all the hard graft, science and paper work he has put in during this latest period of rapidly changing times. 

Tight lines in the coming season.

Colin Kirkpatrick
OTFA Environment Sub Comm. Chair