BBC Panorama response

date20 May 2019

On 20th May 2019, BBC One’s flagship investigations documentary ‘Panorama’ will focus on the Scottish salmon industry. The Panorama programme, entitled ‘Salmon Farming Exposed’, will examine the environmental performance and practices of the industry. It also looks at the regulatory oversight of the industry, including SEPA’s role.

In November 2018, SEPA, as one of a number of organisations regulating finfish aquaculture, announced firm, evidence-based proposals for a revised regulatory regime that will strengthen the protection of the marine environment for the people of Scotland. The regime will be introduced next month.

The new regime follows twenty-two months of work by colleagues across the agency, a 2017 consultation, and two Scottish Parliamentary committees, one of which concluded that “the status quo is not an option”, adding that the industry’s expansion goal “will be unsustainable and may cause irrecoverable damage to the environment” unless governance and practices are improved markedly.

Terry A’Hearn, Chief Executive of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, said: “Whilst a high quality environment and abundant freshwater resources are vital to Scotland’s aquaculture sector, it’s an industry that attracts polarised positions, from those who cite its economic contribution to those who oppose its existence. 

“As one of a number of organisations regulating finfish aquaculture, SEPA is clear that our job is to make sure environmental standards protect the marine environment for the people of Scotland and we make sure the industry meets those.  That’s unequivocally our focus.

“Consequently across the last twenty-two months we’ve done more science, more analysis and more listening than ever before.   We announced enhanced environmental monitoring and the creation of new SEPA enforcement unit to ensure compliance is non-negotiable.  Officers are currently engaged in a programme of unannounced visits to confirm compliance with regulatory requirements.

“As an organisation based on law and evidence, SEPA routinely reviews data from operators, from SEPA monitoring and from third parties.  Whilst it would be inappropriate to pre-judge potential outcomes, SEPA will fully investigate suggestions of alleged industry wrongdoing made by BBC Panorama.

SEPA is unable to comment further on its current audit and unannounced inspection programme underway at present.”

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SEPA invites Elgin and Forres locals to learn about the new and improved flood warnings for River Findhorn and River Lossie

date15 May 2019

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) is calling on locals in Elgin and Forres to get flood-prepared by attending a special drop-in session on the new and improved flood warnings for the River Findhorn and River Lossie.

  • Special drop-in events will be held at Elgin Library and Forres Town Hall to help locals learn about new and improved flood warnings
  • More than 1,350 homes and businesses are already signed up to receive advance notification of flooding for the River Findhorn and River Lossie
  • Floodline customers receive free advance notification when flooding is predicted providing crucial time to get flood-prepared.

More than 1,350 homes and businesses are already signed up to receive flood warnings for the River Findhorn and River Lossie which in recent years have both experienced a number of notable flood events with significant impacts. SEPA has now improved the flood warnings to take into account the building of flood alleviation schemes at Forres, Elgin and Dallas, and has also developed three new flood warning areas covering the Lossie.

Locals are invited to attend a drop-in session at Elgin Library from 2pm to 7pm on Tuesday 21 May, and at Forres Town Hall from 2pm to 7pm on Wednesday 22 May to find out more about the new and improved flood warnings and how signing up to receive free advance warning of flooding can help you be flood-prepared. SEPA has also written to the local community, including 120 householders and businesses in the new flood warning areas, to help them find out more about the benefits of signing up to Floodline.

As Scotland’s national authority for flood forecasting and warning, SEPA operates a 24-hour Flood forecasting and warning service to inform first responders, local authorities and emergency services of emerging flood events and the potential impact on local communities and critical infrastructure. Operating 365 days a year, over 300 Flood Alerts and 400 Flood Warnings are issued annually via Floodline directly to 26,944 customers nationwide, with many thousands more accessing them online.

Vincent Fitzsimons, SEPA’s Head of Hydrology, said:

“Every day SEPA works to help Scotland prepare more powerfully for future increased flooding in the face of clear science on climate change.

“As many residents and businesses know, flooding is a real threat. We hope that as many people as possible who live and work in, or travel through, Elgin and Forres will be able to come along to our drop-in sessions about the new and improved flood warnings for the River Findhorn and River Lossie. Our officers will explain how our Floodline service operates and how it can help everybody be prepared for the possibility of flooding.

“Our Floodline customers will receive free advance notification when flooding is predicted, providing crucial time to prepare and protect themselves, and their properties against the disruption and damage which flooding can cause.”

If members of the public have already signed up to receive the Flood Warnings they do not need to sign up to Floodline again to receive the improved warnings. Through the Floodline service SEPA currently provides advance flood warnings for over 280 areas across Scotland, and people can sign up to receive free notifications of flood warning messages direct to their choice of mobile or landline numbers at or by calling 0345 988 1188.


Get a better understanding of watercourses with OS MasterMap Water Network

date01 May 2019

Ordnance Survey (OS), the Environment Agency (EA) and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) have collaborated to bring together a nationally consistent view of Great Britain’s watercourses called OS MasterMap Water Network.

For over two decades EA has carefully mapped the flow of water in rivers across England and Wales to help protect communities from flooding and to improve habitats for wildlife through their Detailed River Network. This new collaboration combines the data from the Detailed River Network with SEPA’s data on Scotland’s watercourses to produce one comprehensive view of all watercourses across Great Britain. This project led to the creation of OS MasterMap Water Network and, following its initial launch in 2015, became a full product in April 2019.

This new dataset is a crucial element in understanding our natural environment. As the only detailed, heighted water network of Great Britain, OS MasterMap Water Network is continually updated and improved, showing the flow and precise course of rivers, streams, lakes and canals, at a national and local level.

OS MasterMap Water Network will support analysis used for planning and policy initiatives. This would include managing and reporting of water quality, water resources, fisheries status, mapping navigations, predictive modelling, risk assessment, regulation, incident response and a host of other river-related initiatives, from permitting applications to catchment delineation.

Since its initial launch in 2015, OS, EA and SEPA have continued to work together to improve the product. As a result, we have made 850,000 improvements to the data which focused on watercourse connectivity, flow direction, contiguous naming and identified primary flow path. Joint working has identified and delivered improvements to successive versions of the dataset through testing. OS and EA are delighted to confirm that EA will start to migrate from their existing Detailed River Network to the OS MasterMap Water Network and will be progressively implementing this across all systems and projects where a network of watercourses is required.

The principal benefits of using the OS MasterMap Water Network are

  • Continuous maintained data across geographic boundaries to allow seamless data exchange
  • Common references for sharing data with other organisations using the product
  • Up-to-date data
  • Greater extent e.g. more watercourses mapped in fenland areas
  • Better correspondence with OS base data
  • Greatly reduced data management overheads for users

Martin Whitworth, Deputy Director for Data and Systems at the Environment Agency, said:

“This exciting new collaboration between the Environment Agency and Ordnance Survey is an important step forwards in how we collect and use information about our rivers.

“It will give us greater insight into river flows right across Great Britain, helping us to better protect communities in England from flooding whilst also bringing a host of benefits in terms of planning, construction and helping to inform important environmental conservation work.”

With the release of OS MasterMap Water Network, EA will no longer need to maintain their Detailed River Network as this data will now be supplied and maintained by Ordnance Survey. As a result, the Detailed River Network will be withdrawn from the market and this new product will replace it. OS MasterMap Water Network is available to all public sector organisations for free at the point of use and is available through commercial terms for all other organisations.

As part of the collaboration to deliver the OS MasterMap Water Network, OS has worked closely with SEPA and Scottish Government to deliver additional detailed information on the location of culverts managed by Local Authorities. The culvert information provides the underground connections between watercourses which are vital to understand as part of the “Flood Risk Management (Scotland) Act 2009”. OS completed the inclusion of the identified Scottish Local Authority culverts at the end of 2017 and are starting to work with SEPA and Scottish Government on how this information will be maintained going forward.

Dr David Pirie, SEPA Executive Director, said:

 “Every day SEPA works to protect and enhance Scotland’s environment, including helping Scotland prepare more powerfully for future increased flooding in the face of clear science on climate change. This new more detailed map of Scotland’s rivers will enhance SEPA’s reporting of environmental data and provide better information on the risk of flooding.”

For further information on OS MasterMap Water Network visit