The current state of affairs for our wild fish where fish farming is concerned is twofold;
- The current Scottish regulatory system fails to protect our wild salmon and sea trout where fish farming is concerned, and;
- Research into some of the key impacts on wild fish arising from fish farming is increasing but still not well understood in areas such as migration and sea lice dispersal, for example.
The current Scottish regulatory system for fish farming is complex and disjointed and fails to protect wild salmon and sea trout. There is no single entity with responsibility for wild and farmed fish interactions. Two Scottish Parliament inquiries have made it clear that the current format of regulation and enforcement in this policy area is not acceptable, and a new system is required.
Current regulatory responsibilities:
- Marine Scotland:
- Fish Health Inspectorate: farmed fish health and welfare, and fish escapes
- Marine Scotland Licensing: moorings and navigation
- Biomass limits
- Use of chemical treatments on farmed fish
- Animal and Plant Health Agency (and relevant local authority):
- Farmed fish welfare
- Disposal of farmed fish mortalities
- Relevant local planning authority:
- Visual and noise pollution
- Sea lice interaction with wild fish
Although sea lice interaction with wild fish falls under the relevant local planning authority’s remit at present, resources and expertise available to local authorities is insufficient to ensure that wild fish will be protected. Furthermore, any decisions taken through the planning authority with regards to wild fish interactions are currently not fully enforceable.
The Salmon Interactions Working Group (LINK IN TEXT TO SIWG PAGE) was established to make recommendations for a future regulatory system approach to managing interactions between wild and farmed fish.
Our seas are a shared space and we believe that protecting and safeguarding our iconic Atlantic salmon and sea trout is the responsibility of all users of the environment, including existing and proposed aquaculture developments. As fish farming is a comparatively young industry, some knowledge gaps exist with regards to their impact on wild fish. Without robust evidence of how both wild fish use their habitats and where interactions occur with farmed fish, it is impossible to plan aquaculture or marine renewable developments in an informed manner designed to protect wild fish. The need to collect this vital information is understood by planning authorities, regulators, wild fisheries interests and the fish farming sector.
The Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee have stipulated that to mitigate the risk of transfer of sea lice, fish farms should be located away from salmonid migration routes. The Rural Economy & Connectivity Committee shared this view and have recommended that this shift begins proactively.
Fisheries Management Scotland are working alongside our members, partnership organisations and the aquaculture industry to provide evidence-based research in this area to drive change and progress.
Read more about our priority focus areas here (LINK TO OUR PRIORITIES PAGE).