A salmon farm in Scotland.

Scottish seafood strategy promises quicker fish farm consents

But government also presses ahead with controversial lice framework


The Scottish Government today delivered good and bad news to the country’s salmon farmers in its newly published Strategy for Seafood.

The SNP/Green administration reiterated its commitment to streamlining the aquaculture consenting process and has created a consenting task group to look at efficiency, effectiveness, and transparency of the system.

But the Strategy also confirmed that the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) will continue making progress towards the implementation of a new risk-based framework for managing the interactions between sea lice and farmed and wild fish.

Wild salmon zones

SEPA proposes to create wild salmon protection zones where there will be a reduction in the average number of sea lice that can be carried on farmed fish before farmers are statutorily required to remove the parasites, a process that is expensive, interrupts growth, and can cause some fish to die.

Trade body Salmon Scotland has previously criticised SEPA for continuing to make rule changes before a Scottish Government review of aquaculture regulation is completed. Some fish farmers also question the scientific basis of SEPA’s assumptions that lice from farms harm wild salmon.

But ministers have said that while the review is essential to securing the aquaculture sector’s future prosperity and sustainability, it does not mean that Scotland should pause progress “on the known issues”.

Improving relations

The formation of the consenting task group follows the creation earlier this year of the Scottish Aquaculture Council. The Council resulted from a Scottish Government-commissioned report into aquaculture regulation by Professor Russel Griggs, the first stage of the review into aquaculture regulations.

The Council is partly an attempt to improve relations between fish farmers and government agencies, and between the agencies and individuals within them, to build a more efficient regulatory and permitting system.

A Scottish Government spokesperson today told Fish Farming Expert that the Scottish Aquaculture Council agreed to establish the consenting group at its inaugural meeting in June.

“A consenting workshop was held in August to help shape the work plan of the consenting task group, and we expect the group to meet again at the beginning of November,” said the spokesperson, who added that membership information and terms of reference will be published on the Scottish Government website pages in due course.