The Scottish government has ditched legal action against a fish farm accused of using chemicals which killed over 20,000 fish – after a legal error.
Scottish SPCA officers carried out a raid together with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) at Hoganess Salmon Farm in August last year following the death of almost 100 tonnes of half-grown fish.
Two men were charged with cruelty to animals after a six-month investigation.
However today it emerged the case was being dropped because the wrong legislation had been used.
A Sepa spokesman said: “The Scottish Environment Protection Agency carried out an investigation into an incident at a fish farm operated by Hoganess Salmon in August 2010.
“Following discussion of the circumstances with the procurator fiscal, it was identified that there was no basis for taking action under the Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Regulations 2011, the legislation used by Sepa to regulate fish farms, which do not apply to any activity for which a licence is needed under Part II of the Food and Environment Protection Act 1985 (FEPA).”
Highly toxic chemicals commonly used for treating horses and sheep for lice were believed to have been found during the raid.
Marine Scotland, which is responsible for marine licensing, has also decided against prosecuting.
A spokeswoman said: “Given the time elapsed it would not now be appropriate or practical to pursue a case under another regulatory regime.
“We will consider whether there are any lessons to be learned in terms of simplifying the regulatory regime as we develop proposals for the forthcoming Aquaculture and Fisheries Bill.”
The fish farm has been sold to the Meridian Salmon Group, which is owned by a Norwegian multinational, Morpol.