INVESTIGATION: Claim rare reefs harmed by fish farm pollution

By Rob Edwards in The Ferret

Video allegations that fish farm pollution has damaged rare and beautiful wildlife are under investigation by two Scottish Government watchdogs.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) and NatureScot are examining claims that internationally important and brightly coloured reefs in Loch Creran, on the west coast, have been harmed by toxic pesticides and wastes discharged by a caged salmon company.

A film produced by campaigners highlights evidence from a dive in the loch in 2021 that one reef has disappeared in the last ten years. They warn that now is the “last chance” to save the reefs and are calling for urgent action by regulators.

The fish farming company, however, rejects the film’s allegations as “misleading” and describes the loch’s wildlife as “vibrant”. It points to scientific evidence that the reefs have “a natural life cycle of growth and collapse”.

Loch Creran, about six miles north of Oban in Argyll, was designated as a special area of conservation in order to protect its reefs in 2005. According to NatureScot, it had “the world’s largest area of serpulid reefs”.

The reefs are built by organ-pipe, or serpulid, worms, and form structures like bushes on the seabed. The worms live in hundreds of small, white tubes and when feeding put out forests of feathery pink, orange and red tentacles.

The reefs are also a haven for other marine wildlife, including fish, crabs, lobsters, starfish, prawns and sponges. Research has shown that they can be home to over 70 different species.

 

A salmon farm near Oban in Argyll – For the full story on this see The Ferret website.

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