THE use of acoustic deterrent devices (ADDs) on Scottish fish farms has effectively been banned following an intervention from Environmental Standards Scotland, according to the Scottish Greens. 

The devices, also known as “seal scarers”, emit a sound into the water to deter seals from attacking fish farms. 

But conservationists say they can have a devastating impact on cetaceans such as porpoises, whales and dolphins.

The ruling means that devices can no longer be used by fish farms without a license, which would only be granted should a farm be able to demonstrate that it would not negatively affect marine wildlife.

This, according to the Scottish Greens, effectively bans their use.

Scottish Greens MSP Mark Ruskell said: “I’m absolutely delighted that the intervention of Environmental Standards Scotland has now led to an effective ban on the use of ADDs.

“We’ve known for some time that these devices can cause significant harm to marine wildlife, and that there are other ways for the industry to protect their farms.

“This decision is the result of long-standing community campaigns and I commend everyone who has been involved in getting us to a place where these devices will no longer be permitted.

READ MORE: Probe launched over claims of ‘sonic torture’ at Scots fish farms

“The evidence for a ban has been building in parliament for years. Environmental Standards Scotland have shown with their very first case how effective they can be in responding to public concern, holding government and regulators to account. It’s a great start.

“I’ll be looking now for firm enforcement action from Marine Scotland if salmon farms are using unregulated ADDs. Turning a blind eye to these noise pollution devices is not acceptable or legal.”

However, a statement from the Scottish Government states that farms will still be permitted to use the devices if they comply with the Habitats Regulations and Aquaculture Code of Practice: 

It said: "The Scottish Government welcomes the report and conclusions of Environmental Standards Scotland (ESS).

"ESS made a number of recommendations on how processes relating to the use of acoustic deterrent devices could be improved. These have been accepted and implemented in full and we are pleased that ESS has no ongoing concerns. 

“Where fish farmers wish to use acoustic deterrent devices, their use must be compliant with the Habitats Regulations and the Aquaculture Code of Practice.

"In practice, this requires them to either obtain any relevant consents or to demonstrate that their use will not harm marine mammals.

“Marine Scotland undertakes regular compliance inspections and, to date, one deployed device has been detected. This was subsequently removed following enforcement action by Marine Scotland.”

A Scottish parliamentary report indicated that in 2019 the devices were in use at around 90% of Scottish fish farms. 

However, a spokesperson for Scottish Salmon - the body that represents salmon farmers in Scotland - said: "No ADDs are currently in use on any Scottish sea farm. 

"Any application for their use is dependent on the Scottish Government sorting out their regulations and application process." 

Last year a study by scientists at Scottish Association for Marine Science and the Centre for Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) found that areas within the special area for conservation in the Inner Hebrides were regularly exposed to high levels of noise from ADDs.

They found that the accumulative level of noise could result in the temporary impairment of harbour porpoise hearing for up to 17 miles away from a fish farm.

A ban on shooting seals to protect fish farms was introduced last year.