Scotland's chief veterinary officer, Sheila Voas, will chair the Farmed Fish Health Framework steering group. Photo: Scottish government.

New chair and fresh focus for fish health framework

Scotland’s chief veterinary officer, Dr Sheila Voas, is to take charge of a refreshed approach to Scottish farmed fish health which will focus on mortality, climate change and ocean acidification and treatments.

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Voas will chair a reformatted steering group of the Farmed Fish Health Framework, a 10-year collaboration between the aquaculture sector and the Scottish government.

Rural economy secretary Fergus Ewing outlined the changes today.

Significant progress

“Under the Framework, significant progress has been made to develop an evidence-based approach to how the health and welfare of farmed fish is supported in Scotland,” said Ewing in answer to a question from MSP Maureen Watt.

“In July 2019, I provided Parliament with a comprehensive overview of the significant progress achieved so far under all the workstreams.

“Since then, the steering group taking forward the Framework considered the workstreams and approach taken; has reflected on lessons learned; and, recommended a review of the structure of the delivery mechanisms to help ensure future effectiveness and efficiency to make more rapid progress.

“As a result of that review, a new governance structure is being put in place and a refreshed approach will be implemented which prioritises those work streams of Scotland’s Farmed Fish Health Framework which stand to make the most direct impact on fish health in Scotland.”

Three priorities

The new steering group will focus on three priority workstreams:

 1. Mortality by cause analysis with the associated framework activities to:

  • Develop a consistent reporting methodology for collection of information on the causes of farmed fish mortality over recent years.
  • Provide survival data for marine rainbow trout and marine salmon and ensure that the Farmed Fish Health Framework activities remain appropriate.

 2. Climate Change and Ocean Acidification with the associated framework activities to:

  • Consider the creation of real time monitoring of plankton in, and alert of the occurrence of, potentially harmful phytoplankton species.
  • Determine how best to measure changing climatic conditions in Scotland particular to aquaculture leading to an annual mapping exercise. This should include an assessment of currently available environmental data from around fish farms, for example real-time temperature data.

 3. Treatments (including medicines) with the associated framework activities to:

  • Encourage development of new medicines with the aim of increasing treatment flexibility and allowing the potential to explore treatment rotation in Scotland, within environmentally sustainable limits, appropriate use of veterinary medicines through ‘cascade’, and treatment residue containment and neutralisation.

Much-respected figure

“I am delighted that Dr Voas has agreed to chair the redesigned Farmed Fish Health Framework Steering Group,” said Ewing.

“Sheila is a much-respected figure within animal health and is ideally placed to bring a fresh perspective to aquatic animal health, and promote linkages between animal and aquatic health, including the Scottish Animal Welfare Commission.

“The Farmed Fish Health Framework’s focus on fish health and securing a sustainable future for Scotland’s top food export is crucial, and it is ideally placed to contribute to wider work aimed at sustainable economic recovery.

“I would like to thank all involved for their time and efforts to deliver the Farmed Fish Health Framework to date and their continued commitment to improving fish health and welfare in Scotland, ensuring that Scotland continues to set a leading example in this area.”