Kit Davies
Scottish aquaculture has been given the thumbs up from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency on the issue of harmful algal blooms.
However SEPA has accepted there is a need for more data.
Blooms are groups of naturally occurring species of microscopic algae that form part of plankton. Some species can lead to toxins in fish and shellfish, making them unfit for humans to eat. They can also kill fish in fish farms by choking their gills or reducing the oxygen content of the water.
Environmental critics of Scottish fish farming have claimed that waste nutrients from fish farms have led to an increased occurrence of algal blooms, encourage toxic species to grow in place of harmless species, and make potentially toxic algae more poisonous.
Andy Rosie, SEPA's aquaculture specialist, said: "The review that we commissioned does not support any of these concerns. The report concludes the levels of nutrients from fish farms alone appear to be too little to have significant effects on, or be the cause of, the perceived changes in algal blooms, except perhaps in a few enriched and poorly flushed sea lochs.
"However, we do note the report's comments on the lack of data. This point has also been recognised by the ministerial working group on aquaculture, which has identified it as a priority for action.
"Monitoring of our tidal waters has been concentrated around the industrial parts of the Forth and Clyde estuaries, but as fish farming has grown in the remote inlets of the Highlands and Islands, there is a need to increase our data set here to better inform the regulatory process."
Where the review suggested there might be problems, SEPA would look at all the relevant factors to reduce the impact on the environment, said Rosie.