Scottish Government Proposals For The Aquaculture And Freshwater Fisheries Industries

The Scottish Government has issued the Aquaculture and Fisheries Bill Consultation Document (the "Consultation Document") which contains a series of proposals which aim to protect the interests of those who have invested in management and husbandry in the aquaculture and freshwater fisheries industries. The various proposals seek to promote openness and transparency, including in the publication of information, and draw inspiration from examples of international best practice. The Consultation Document makes broad ranging proposals affecting a number of areas.

Proposals Relating to the Sustainable Development of Aquaculture

  1. Farm Management Agreements ("FMAs")

    The importance of FMAs in ensuring good practice and cooperation between producers was highlighted in A Code of Good Practice for Scottish Finfish Aquaculture ("the Code") published in 2006 and revised in 2011. FMAs between marine finfish operators should cover approaches to issues including stocking, fallowing, husbandry and biosecurity, management practices and information sharing.

    There is currently no obligation on operators to sign up to FMAs, nor any sanctions for failure to do so. The Consultation Paper puts forward a proposal that it be made a legal requirement for all finfish operators in the marine environment to participate in a FMA, as recommended by the Healthier Fish Working Group.

    This would mean that, within a transitional period, existing operators would be required to agree appropriate arrangements to be implemented in their management area. Any new operators coming into an area covered by an existing agreement would be required to join in that, or an amended, agreement.

  2. Appropriate Scale Management Areas ("MAs")

    The Healthier Fish Working Group recommended that MAs should be delineated by the industry. MAs currently in place are set out in the Code. The Consultation Paper introduces the proposal that operators should retain primary responsibility for determining the boundaries of MAs. It is also proposed, however, that Scottish Ministers should have the power to specify MA boundaries, or other relevant measures, where this is felt necessary and appropriate in the wider public and environmental interest. It is envisaged that the Scottish Ministers' powers would be used on a precautionary or reserve basis, possibly in conjunction with other measures.

  3. Management Measures and Dispute Resolution

    It is acknowledged in the Consultation Document that there may be instances where it may not be possible for operators to readily agree a mutually acceptable FMA. Accordingly, it is proposed that there should be an independent process, with statutory backing, for arbitration between interested parties where it has not been possible for agreement to be reached on the terms of a FMA. The Scottish Salmon Producers' Organisation ("SSPO") has suggested it might take responsibility for developing arrangements for access to an independent arbitration process, the outcomes of which would be binding on the parties involved.

  4. Unused Consents

    The Consultation Document addresses the issue of unused fish and shellfish farm consents including seabed leases, planning consents, biomass and discharge consents and marine licences. It is proposed that the question of unused consents be reviewed and the use or relinquishments of unused consents be promoted. It is suggested in the Consultation Document that it would be appropriate for the Scottish Ministers, and/or Planning Authorities, to have the power to revoke consents, at least in certain circumstances, to help ensure that sustainable developments in aquaculture are not constrained by lack of access to appropriate sites for development.

  5. Collection and Publication of Sea-Lice Data

    This is a key area of contention between aquaculture and salmon and freshwater fisheries' interests. The Healthier Fish Working Group have suggested an approach, based on (i) an industry-run database providing public facing reports on sea-lice numbers, aggregated over 6 regional zones and (ii) a new statutory reporting requirement to the Scottish Ministers for sea-lice treatment failures. The Consultation Document invites views on the most appropriate approach to data collection and publication.

  6. Surveillance, Biosecurity, Mortality and Disease Data

    In light of recent changes in aquatic animal health regulation, routine aquatic animal health surveillance has evolved from active/targeted to a risk based approach. It is suggested that, in order to facilitate this approach, additional data and information from fish farms need to be made...

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