The Scottish subsidiary of Norwegian-based Marine Harvest, which describes itself as "the world’s leading seafood company", appeared at Stornoway sheriff court on 12 December 2007 to admit to five water pollution and waste offences.
All the offences were committed at the firm’s Amhuinnsuidhe Hatchery on the Isle of Harris. They came to light in September 2006 during a routine Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) inspection.
Sewage fungus was found in a local river and traced to an illicit effluent discharge. The company was also pumping effluent onto land rather than recycling it through its water treatment system, and was depositing waste sludge and burning plastic rubbish on land. Neither activity was covered by a waste licence.
The company was charged with three waste offences under section 33(1) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. It was also charged with breaching its water use licence, contrary to regulation 40(1)(d) of the Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Regulations 2005, and for discharging untreated effluent to the water environment, contrary to regulations 5 and 40(1)(a).
The company was fined £23,500 in total.
SEPA’s Western Isles unit manager Stuart Baird said the offences resulted from management failures. The case "shows there is a continued need for regulatory scrutiny of the fish farming industry", he added.
Marine Harvest apologised for the breaches and said it had improved its systems. But its poor environmental management standards have been highlighted in previous years by SEPA’s annual rating system (ENDS Report 377, p 16 ).