Professor Russel Griggs said that everyone who contributed to his review agreed aquaculture regulation wasn't fit for purpose.

Scotland’s salmon farmers welcome proposals to improve regulation

Scotland’s salmon farmers have welcomed a Scottish Government-commissioned independent report published today that sets out a future direction for the industry.

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The review of the aquaculture regulatory process by Professor Russel Griggs attempts to simplify permitting for aquaculture and give better access to information about the industry for everyone.

In a summary of his review, Griggs says that all the people and organisations he met with or had input into his review think that the current regulatory system is not fit for purpose and in one form or another needs change.

‘Mistrust, dislike and vitriol’

He adds: “The degree of mistrust, dislike, and vitriol at both an institutional and personal level between the industry (mainly finfish), certain regulators, parts of the Scottish Government and other stakeholders is at a level that I have never seen before which makes the current working relationships within the sector challenging.”

Griggs recommends that the Scottish Government should work through a Project Board to produce, within 12 months, a 10-year framework for each part of the aquaculture sector (finfish, shellfish, and seaweed) within which all must operate.

Once that framework is in place all existing sites should be examined to ensure that they can operate within the framework, and those that can’t give up all licences.

Griggs also recommends that a new single licensing payment is introduced, based on tonnage output of each site, which covers the costs of all bodies involved in the new framework process and addresses community benefit as well.

Tavish Scott: "We will work with Government and stakeholders to build an aquaculture regulatory framework that is better, efficient and more transparent."

A blueprint for change

Tavish Scott, chief executive of Salmon Scotland, which represents all of the country’s salmon farmers, said: “The Scottish Government now has a blueprint for change that can make Scotland a world leader in regulating the blue economy. Scotland’s salmon sector and the 10,000 people we support, are grateful to Professor Russel Griggs for his independent review. The Scottish Government are to be congratulated for commissioning this work – an assessment of the existing regulatory regime which as the report states, does not work. 

“The challenge we embrace is to implement the Review’s recommendations. We will work with Government and stakeholders to build an aquaculture regulatory framework that is better, efficient and more transparent than before. One that delivers the right balance between the environment, the economy and the social licence of fish farming.

Grasp this opportunity

“Russel Griggs has given all those involved in a £1 billion Scottish success story a route map to becoming internationally competitive in delivering protein for the domestic market and overseas. We urge the Scottish Government to grasp this opportunity.”

Scott has been critical of a decision taken by the Scottish Government to give the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) a key role in monitoring the potential effects of salmon farms on wild salmon stocks while Griggs’ review was still under way.

Salmon Scotland also criticised the decision to Crown Estate Scotland to almost double rents for fish farms before the review report was published.

Commercial certainty

In his summary, Griggs says his recommendations will give the aquaculture sector an opportunity to develop in a way that allows commercial certainty within a controlled environment while taking into account the different status of each sector.

Griggs, an experienced business, public and third sector regulatory expert, points out that the Scottish Government will shortly produce its own Vision for Aquaculture in Scotland, which all else for the sector should develop from.

He adds that some of his recommendations can be implemented prior to that, including a pilot in Shetland for a proposed single consent document. But he stresses that it is the job of ministers, not regulators, to dictate how aquaculture will grow.

Government must govern

“Government will create, from the Vision, and own its frameworks for the aquaculture industry,” says Griggs.

“It will assess industry size, development and innovation within strict environmental parameters. Evidence based policy will drive the framework agenda. This will allow for change over time as the individual sectors develop. I am firmly of the view that once the framework is in place only the Cabinet Secretary should have the power to sanction change. Different bodies within national and local government, regulators, and other associated bodies will be responsible for implementing the framework to ensure they are delivered. They do so as implementers only.”

Read the full report by Russel Griggs here.