The move is part of Sepa’s ‘Sector Plan for Fish-Fish Aquaculture’, which aims to ensure all companies improve their environmental performance to attain - and then go beyond - the standard compliance regulations.
A Sepa spokesman said: “We will soon be consulting on proposals to change the way in which we license fish farms, particularly in relation to the zone impacted by each farm. We believe our proposal for Depositional Zone Regulation (DZR) would improve the regulatory framework for aquaculture, and ensure effective environmental protection. It will help the industry direct development of the sector towards those locations where the environment can accommodate it, while maintaining tight limits on fish numbers (biomass) to protect areas where the environment is more sensitive.
“DZR will ensure that growth only occurs where the combination of appropriate siting, and new techniques and processes, mean the environment can sustain it. It will be supported by Marine Scotland’s recently developed computer modelling software, which will provide more accurate assessment of environmental effects; and by increased environmental monitoring, carried out by Sepa, to ensure impacts remain within acceptable limits.
"Under these conditions, we believe some fish farms, particularly those in deeper waters where tidal flows more effectively disperse wastes, could grow incrementally, by about 10 per year, beyond the current biomass limit.
“We plan to launch our consultation on the DZR approach later this month. Aquaculture is a sector which elicits a variety of strong and divergent views, and we welcome the widest and fullest possible response from all those involved in the debate. We need an informed solution which protects the environment and meets the needs of the fish farming industry, the other industries also based in our coastal waters, other coastal water users, and the communities in which fish farms operate.”