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SEPA CEO Terry A'Hearn being filmed for Panorama on board the Sir John Murray. Photo: SEPA.
SEPA CEO Terry A'Hearn being filmed for Panorama on board the Sir John Murray. Photo: SEPA.

Mowi Scotland has challenged a claim by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) that the agency carried out a surprise raid the company’s offices at Fort William earlier this month.

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The BBC, which will tonight broadcast a Panorama documentary titled Salmon Farming Exposed, said it had been told that SEPA’s enforcement team removed documents during an unannounced inspection of Mowi’s UK head office on May 1.

According to pre-programme publicity by the BBC, Mowi is under investigation for possible misreporting of chemical use, something Mowi is confident it did not do.

Evidence it was notified

Mowi denies the visit by SEPA was unannounced. A Mowi spokesperson said the audit by SEPA had begun last October, and was continued this year, with visits announced in advance.

Furthermore, the company said it provided the BBC evidence to prove it was notified of the visits.

The timing of the follow-up visits by SEPA coincided with the making of tonight’s Panorama programme, for which SEPA chief executive Terry A’Hearn was interviewed.

Information from consultation

A spokesperson for SEPA told the BBC that officers from its recently-created enforcement unit were engaged in a programme of unannounced visits to confirm compliance with regulatory requirements.

“The most recent inspections have been carried out in the Western Isles and were informed by the information received during our Scotland-wide, public consultation in winter 2018 as part of a package of firm, evidence-based proposals for a revised regulatory regime.

“SEPA advised Mowi Ltd on 23rd April 2019 of an audit at Stob Ban, Fort William. Mowi was subject to an unexpected inspection at Stob Ban, Fort William on 1st May 2019 and a further announced inspection on 7th May 2019 to obtain further information.

“The August 2018 visit was a precursor to further formal inspections.

“SEPA is unable to comment further on its current audit and unannounced inspection programme underway at present.”

Full transparency

SEPA tweeted about its involvement in the Panorama programme today.

In a statement on its website, the agency said: “In order to ensure full transparency and accountability, SEPA fully participated with BBC Panorama, including access to our research vessel, the Sir John Murray, our scientific laboratories, scientific and regulatory officers.

“As an organisation based on law and evidence, SEPA routinely reviews data from operators, from SEPA monitoring and from third parties. While it would be inappropriate to pre-judge potential outcomes, SEPA will fully investigate suggestions of alleged industry wrongdoing made by BBC Panorama.

“In addition to continuous review of data from a variety of sources and conducting enhanced environmental monitoring, officers are engaged in a programme of unannounced visits to confirm compliance with regulatory requirements.

“SEPA is unable to comment further on its current audit and unannounced inspection programme underway at present.”

Panorama will be broadcast at 8.30pm on BBC 1.

 

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