The proposed increase in cage size and grid at Etive 3 will inevitably increase the surface area of the sea-bed footprint, damaging a greater area of Loch Etive’s seabed. In that context, it is worth noting that the January 2016 benthic survey, as required from Dawnfresh under the Controlled Activities Regulations, has been rejected by SEPA as being inadequate.
In that context, the Council cannot delegate all responsibility for benthic pollution to SEPA, nor any of its responsibilities for the wider ecological impact that a bigger Etive 3 will inevitably cause.
The Council has duties to further nature conservation, including to protect the Priority Marine Feature, such as the burrowed mud in deep waters, as found in Loch Etive, including at the Etive 3 site, as well as wild salmonids. The very rare, Ice Age relic species, the northern hatchet shell, is also found in upper Loch Etive.
Priority Marine Features are habitats and species which Scottish Natural Heritage considers to be marine nature conservation priorities in Scottish waters. One of the key objectives of the international Convention on Biological Diversity, the UK Biodiversity Action Plan, and the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy (SBS), is to halt the loss of biodiversity, and to reverse previous losses, through action for species and habitats. Habitats and species that are a priority for action towards this aim have been placed on the Scottish Biodiversity List, as required under the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004, which also places a general biodiversity duty on all Scottish public bodies, including the Council, to oblige them, when exercising functions such as the planning, to “further the conservation of biodiversity”.
Granting this application would run counter to that duty.