Inviting death

Published: Tuesday 15 October 1996

strange are the ways of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency ( sepa ). They have authorised salmon farmers to use a synthetic chemical -- ivermectin -- which is lethal to both wildlife and humans and can paralyse invertebrates. Scottish salmon farmers, who collectively own 343 fish farms, now want to feed this chemical to salmons to help them get rid of the lice troubling them.

Fears abound that the chemical fed to the salmon or discharged into the lochs could find its way into the human food chain. "In the worst scenarios, levels might be reached which affect the human embryo in the womb, the human baby through breast milk, and the aged", observed John Duffus, director the Edinburgh Centre for Toxicology at the Heriot-Watt University.

The chemical does not bode well for other marine life-forms either. Crustaceans, lugworms, which help aerate the sediment, and mussels have died in laboratory tests conducted by sepa . Yet, it granted the first licence to Strathaird Farms in Skye to feed ivermectin to the fishes. Thirty other applications are currently awaiting the sepa approval.

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