SEPA to play bigger role in aquaculture – Fish Farmer Magazine
The Scottish Environmental Protection Agency is poised to assume more powers as the primary authority for the protection of wild salmon, including a key role in assessing whether new fish farms pose a threat to the wild fish.
The announcement is part of the Scottish Government’s response to the final report of the Salmon Interactions Working Group (SIWG) which was established to provide advice on a future approach to interactions between wild and salmon breeding.
The main focus of the SIWG has been the potential damage to wild salmon from sea lice, which some say is exacerbated by the presence of fish farms.
SIWG report calls for reform of Scotland’s fish farming regulatory regime “to ensure it is fit for purpose, comparable to the highest international and national regulatory standards and in line with regulators’ strategic code of practice Scottish ”.
The report recommends that District Salmon Fishing Boards (DSFBs) continue to be statutory consultants in the future regulatory regime. It also calls on the government to undertake a holistic and evidence-based review of the approach to treating sea lice.
The SIWG also recommends that Marine Scotland take a leading role in ensuring consistency in managing interactions at the local level through the use of agreed standards for the current and interim implementation of environmental management plans; and that a single lead agency (with the appropriate skills and capacity) should be responsible for regulating interactions between wild and farmed fish.
On the latter, the Scottish Government has said that SEPA will take the lead role of regulator and that development proposals involving an increase in the number of fish farms, including applications for new farms or the expansion of existing farms, will be assessed at using the new risk assessment framework, which is currently under development.
The Scottish Government also supports the SIWG recommendation that ‘local engagement mechanisms between fish farmers and wild fishery managers should be established as a minimum, to facilitate pre-application consultation, agree on priorities and plans for common local management, serve as a forum for information and data. discuss, identify research priorities and request management measures, if necessary.
The new consent regime will also give the regulator the power to require the relocation of farmed salmon biomass if its current location is considered unsafe for wild fish.
The government has also announced funding of more than £ 650,000 to expand the network of salmon counters, as part of a package to support salmon conservation, by providing information to help monitor populations of salmon and report on their population status.
Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon said: “The important work of SIWG and others has brought together aquaculture and fisheries interests to advise on a new approach to interactions.
“The funding and broad program of work announced today demonstrate that we have gone beyond the status quo and demonstrate our commitment to improving the scientific evidence base.
“This underscores the importance of supporting a sector that provides a nationally and internationally valued low-carbon source of protein, while maintaining well-paying jobs in some of our most fragile rural communities.”
The latest announcements do not, however, provide complete clarity on the future of fish farming regulation. The government’s wild salmon strategy won’t be released until December, and the independent report on Streamlining Fish Farm Regulation, led by Professor Russel Griggs OBE, won’t be released until the end of the year either. year.
Crown Estate Scotland, which grants leases for marine aquaculture, is reviewing its current arrangements and the government has asked it to take the latest recommendations into consideration.