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Aquaculture and Fisheries Bill - Consultation Document

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INTRODUCTION

Background to the consultation

Scotland is home to thriving and important aquaculture and freshwater fisheries. Between them, aquaculture production and salmon and freshwater fisheries are estimated to be worth over £650m (in 2010) to Scotland (substantially more taking into account added value and other benefits). They are critical to the economies of many remote and rural communities and they make important contributions to the wider Scottish economy.

It is important that both sectors - and their interactions - are managed effectively, as part of the wider marine and freshwater environment and to maximise their combined contribution to our aim of sustainable economic growth in Scotland. Recent experience, both at home and abroad, has shown the consequences of failing to do so. Much has been done in Scotland in recent times, and much work continues, to consider, understand and address the key management challenges in both the aquaculture and the freshwater fisheries sectors, and their interactions.

On aquaculture, key work has been taken forward under the auspices of the Ministerial Group on Aquaculture and related working groups, including development of a renewed Strategic Framework for Aquaculture and a Code of Good Practice for Finfish Aquaculture. The industry has flourished and has ambitious aspirations for growth. We want to help it to continue to flourish, and to grow, on a sustainable basis.

On wild salmon and freshwater fisheries, we have the Strategic Framework for Freshwater Fisheries, fishery management plans (developed by fisheries trusts) covering the vast majority of the country, and recommendations for legislative change from the Mixed Stock Salmon Fisheries Working Group Report of March 2010. Together, these provide a sound basis for moving forward.

The possibility of an Aquaculture and Fisheries Bill during the current Parliament provides an opportunity for us to take these issues forward. We are therefore consulting, at this early stage in the new Parliament, on key issues and priority areas for possible legislation. We want to build on best practice and voluntary arrangements where appropriate, providing statutory underpinning and a legislative backstop, where necessary, to protect the interests of those who have invested in the highest standards of management and husbandry. We want to promote openness and transparency, including in the collection and publication of information - and where appropriate, look to examples of international best practice. At the same time, we recognise the need to strike the right balance, respecting and consulting on the interests and perspectives of the range of stakeholders, and avoiding unnecessary or disproportionate new regulatory burdens.

This consultation paper also covers wider measures. We recently issued a separate consultation on a range of proposals offering continued protection to shellfish growing waters within our wider River Basin Management Planning framework. You may wish to refer to that consultation document alongside this one. This paper describes the proposed legal provisions to support those initiatives.

We also propose to take the legislative opportunity to update some existing enforcement provisions. We propose strict liability arrangements should apply in relation to certain offences; to fill gaps in regulatory and enforcement provisions (including in relation to sea fisheries); to improve provisions for the enforcement of EU requirements beyond fisheries limits; and to extend the scope and scale of Fixed Penalty Notices as an alternative to prosecution. We also propose enabling provisions related to cost-sharing and recovery, for service provision and other benefits.

The relevant pieces of statute are referred to in each section of the consultation document. They can be accessed from www.legislation.gov.uk

This consultation paper does not consider issues and options related to locational policy for fish farms. There is already in place a Scottish 'zonal' policy, with the majority of aquaculture production based on the west coast and the islands and a presumption against marine finfish farm developments on the north and east coasts, as a precautionary measure to safeguard migratory fish species. It is for Planning Authorities, in the first instance, to determine any applications for fish farms in their areas, in the context of national and any local guidelines or plans. In a wider marine planning context, we will be consulting separately on a Draft Scottish National Marine Plan (spring 2012) and work is progressing on implementation of our Marine Nature Conservation Strategy, including work to develop a network of Marine Protected Areas ( MPAs). This involves the identification of the proposed network, based on published selection guidelines and involving consultation with industry representatives and other stakeholder groups, prior to wider public consultation on proposed designations.

Strategic Environmental Assessment

We have considered the proposals set out in this consultation in relation to the Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Act 2005. Our initial conclusion is that some of them may give rise to environmental effects. An Environmental Assessment of these proposals is underway. The Environmental Report will be published for consultation during the consultation period on this document.

Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment

The Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment ( BRIA) process is a tool used by Government to assess and present the likely costs and benefits and the associated risks of a proposal that might have an impact on the public, private or third sector. It helps Government to understand the issues associated with a proposal and avoid unintended consequences, to weigh up various options for achieving an objective and to understand the consequences of a proposed intervention. A partial BRIA of these proposals is underway and will be published for consultation during the consultation period on this document.

Who will be interested in this consultation?

This consultation is likely to be of interest to aquaculture (finfish and shellfish), freshwater and sea fisheries stakeholders, consumer organisations and other individuals and organisations who are interested in conservation, animal welfare and protection of the marine and freshwater environment.

What is the closing date for responses?

Consultation responses should be submitted no later than Friday, 2 March 2012. It is important that a Respondent Information Form is submitted with consultation responses, so that we can treat responses appropriately.

Please send your response with the completed Respondent Information Form (see "Handling your Response" below) to:

Aquacultureandfisheriesconsultation@scotland.gsi.gov.uk

Or

1B-North, Victoria Quay, Edinburgh EH6 6QQ

Telephone 0131 244 6243

Fax 0131 244 6512

If you have any queries contact Catriona Graham on 0131 244 6243.

Please indicate clearly in your response which questions or parts of the consultation paper you are responding to as this will aid our analysis of the responses received.

This consultation, and all other Scottish Government consultation exercises, can be viewed online on the consultation web pages of the Scottish Government website at http://www.scotland.gov.uk/consultations

The Scottish Government now has an email alert system for consultations (SEconsult: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/consultations/seconsult.aspx). This system allows stakeholder individuals and organisations to register and receive a weekly email containing details of all new consultations (including web links). SEconsult complements, but in no way replaces SG distribution lists, and is designed to allow stakeholders to keep up to date with all SG consultation activity, and therefore to be alerted at the earliest opportunity to those of most interest. We would encourage you to register.

Handling your response

We need to know how you wish your response to be handled and, in particular, whether you are happy for your response to be made public. Please complete and return the Respondent Information Form at the end of this document as this will ensure that we treat your response appropriately. If you ask for your response not to be published we will regard it as confidential, and we will treat it accordingly.

All respondents should be aware that the Scottish Government is subject to the provisions of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 and would therefore have to consider any request made to it under the Act for information relating to responses made to this consultation exercise.

Will consultation responses be published?

We will provide a link to consultation responses (which are not marked as confidential) on the Scottish Government website within two weeks of the conclusion of the consultation. You will also be able to make arrangements to view responses by contacting the Scottish Government Library on 0131 244 4552. Responses can be copied and sent to you, but a charge may be made for this service.

Will an analysis of consultation responses be published?

The responses will be systematically analysed and reported, and key messages from the various stakeholder groups will be highlighted. A report and summary of findings will be published as soon as possible after the end of the consultation period.

What happens after the consultation?

We will analyse all views expressed in the consultation exercise.

Our current intention is to introduce an Aquaculture and Fisheries Bill to the Parliament at a suitable opportunity.

Comments and complaints

If you have any comments about how this consultation exercise has been conducted, please send them to:

Catriona Graham, 1B-North, Victoria Quay, Edinburgh EH6 6QQ

Telephone 0131 244 6243

Fax 0131 244 6512