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What We Do

Our mission is to support the Scottish Government's vision of a sustainable, growing, diverse aquaculture industry whilst maintaining the high health status of farmed and wild fish and shellfish stocks in Scotland.  Our main objective is to prevent the introduction and spread of listed and emerging fish and shellfish diseases in Scotland.   We do this by undertaking statutory and diagnostic inspection and sampling programmes, providing advice to stakeholders and implementing regulatory functions in accordance with the current aquaculture and aquatic animals health regulations. The advice and regulation we provide is backed by high quality research and is delivered with wider collaboration within Marine Scotland, when and where necessary.

Fish health inspectors are appointed by the Scottish Ministers to act as inspectors and veterinary inspectors under the fish health legislation. This legislation includes:

  • The Aquatic Animal Health (Scotland) Regulations 2009
  • The Fish Farming Businesses (Record Keeping) (Scotland) Order 2008
  • The Aquaculture and Fisheries (Scotland) Act 2007, amended by The Aquaculture and Fisheries (Scotland) Act 2013
  • Trade in Animals and Related Products (Scotland) Regulations 2012
  • The Sea Fisheries (Shellfish) Act 1967

3.1.  Diagnosis of Disease

We provide a free diagnostic service to fish and shellfish farmers and other persons responsible for the care of fish, such as river keepers and ghillies, District Salmon Fishery Boards and Fishery Trusts. We will investigate reports of unexplained mortalities, take samples where appropriate, and identify the cause where possible. Fish health inspectors will not diagnose disease in the field.

3.2.   Surveillance in Farmed Fish and Shellfish Populations

Great Britain is a European member state with areas listed as disease-free for the following viral diseases of fish: infectious haematopoietic necrosis (IHN), viral haemorrhagic septicaemia (VHS) and infectious salmon anaemia (ISA).

Great Britain is a European member state with areas listed as disease-free for the protozoan diseases of molluscs Marteiliosis, and with the exception of a number of defined areas, Bonamiosis.

Definitions of areas not listed as disease-free within Scotland are available online.

National measures to prevent the introduction of certain diseases have been approved for the diseases spring viraemia of carp (SVC) and gyrodactylosis caused by the parasite Gyrodactylus salaris. National measures have also been approved for Great Britain, with the exception of a number of defined areas, for Ostreid herpesvirus 1 µvar (OsHV-1 µvar). These measures protect against imports of fish and shellfish and their gametes from farms, areas and zones where these diseases are present.

Fish health inspectors carry out statutory inspection and testing programmes on fish and shellfish farms throughout Scotland to:

  • maintain the approved status of Great Britain as a disease-free area for ISA, VHS, IHN and Marteiliosis
  • prevent the spread of listed diseases, through epizootic investigations and application of movement restrictions
  • fulfil the monitoring required in support of the national measures for the control of SVC, OsHV-1 µvar and Gyrodactylus salaris
  • fulfil the monitoring required in support of the domestic controls for bacterial kidney disease (BKD)
  • enable detection of emerging diseases of fish and shellfish

To meet the statutory requirement for maintenance of areas listed as free from listed diseases, we inspect all farms holding susceptible species as part of a risk-based active surveillance programme. The frequency of visits to individual farms is based upon the level of risk of disease emergence, or spread that they pose. Those farms posing the highest risk are visited every year; those posing a lesser risk are visited less frequently. Having areas listed as disease-free and national controls mean that only fish and shellfish of equivalent health status can be imported into Great Britain, thereby safeguarding the health of our stocks.

Passive surveillance is carried out between scheduled farm inspections by contacting sites, and also from the receipt of information from industry and health experts in the course of their work. Inspections and sampling are carried out on notification of the suspicion of listed or emerging diseases at a farm. Passive surveillance also allows an assessment to be undertaken on the current production status of a farm and on the most appropriate surveillance frequency for the farm.

If a farm is suspected or confirmed as being infected with a listed disease, surveillance is increased. The Fish Health Inspectorate is responsible for overseeing the withdrawal of fish from sites confirmed with a listed disease and the cleaning and disinfection of equipment on site. We will not allow infected farms to be re-stocked until the recommended fallow period has been completed.

All shellfish farms holding populations of the native oyster (Ostrea edulis) are inspected, and a 30-shell sample is collected annually to screen for the presence of the protozoan parasite Bonamia ostreae.

If during a site inspection an inspector observes sick, moribund or abnormally behaving fish or shellfish on a farm, then diagnostic samples may be taken. The purpose of these samples is to rule out the presence of a listed disease, or to identify other non-listed pathogens, including emerging diseases.

3.3.  Wild Fish and Shellfish Surveillance

As part of our national surveillance for listed diseases, we undertake a passive surveillance programme and investigate all reported mortality incidents in wild fish and shellfish.

3.4.  Quality Assurance

The Fish Health Inspectorate is accredited by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) to ISO 17020 standard for inspection and sampling of fish farm sites for fish diseases in accordance with EC Directive 2006/88/EC and Commission Decision 2010/221/EU.

3.5.  Monitoring Introductions and Imports of Live Aquaculture Species

The Fish Health Inspectorate is responsible for monitoring the introduction and import of live fish and shellfish (except those intended for direct human consumption) into Scotland from outside Great Britain. We monitor the fish and shellfish health status of other countries by maintaining close contact with overseas authorities.

3.6.  Issue of Health Certificates

The placing on the market of live fish and shellfish and their gametes for farming, relaying, put and take fisheries, re-stocking and open ornamental facilities from Scotland, England and Wales (the Great Britain health zone) to other areas listed as disease-free within the EU, must be accompanied by a health certificate. Certificates are issued by a Fish Health Inspector within 72 hours of the loading of the consignment.

Exports of live fish and shellfish and their gametes to Third Countries (countries outside the EU) for farming or relaying, may require a certificate and additional testing for certain diseases. The certification and testing requirements are determined by the Competent Authority of the receiving country. MSS may be able to provide additional testing, as necessary, to facilitate exports to Third Countries. Where we do not offer additional testing, we will give advice on where additional testing may be available.

3.7.  Advice on Applications for Site Leases, Grant Aid and Several Orders

The Fish Health Inspectorate provide comment on aquaculture animal health and containment and also co-ordinate the response provided by Marine Scotland Science on applications for, and modifications to, planning permission.  We also provide comment to MS-LOT as part of the consultation for developments requiring a marine licence, and comment on applications for grant aid under the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) as well as several order applications for shellfish cultivation.

3.8.  Authorisation of Fish and Shellfish Farming Businesses

The Fish Health Inspectorate maintains a list of authorised production businesses (APB) and the fish and shellfish farming sites which they operate, on behalf of the Scottish Ministers.

When we visit your farm we will ask you to confirm that the details which we hold for your business and site are correct. We keep your details in an electronic database along with records of our visits to your farm, any reports that have been issued and the results of any testing we have carried out on fish or shellfish from your farm.

3.9.  Fish Farming Record-Keeping Requirements

Under the conditions of authorisation you are required to keep a record of mortalities and movements of aquaculture animals and aquaculture animal products onto and off your farm, and to maintain and implement a Biosecurity Measures Plan (BMP). You are also required to hold copies of any health surveillance that has been conducted by, or on behalf of, the APB and the results of any health surveillance we have carried out and reported to the APB. Where movements of live fish have been carried out by or on behalf of the APB, not using a registered specialist transporter, transport records must also be maintained.

The records of mortalities and the movements of aquaculture animals and aquaculture animal products are essential to help us trace the source and spread of infection in the event of an outbreak of a serious disease of fish.

Under the veterinary medicines regulations the owner or keeper of food-producing animals is responsible for keeping proof of purchase and records of administration of all veterinary medicinal products acquired for those animals. Records must be kept for a minimum of five years after administration or disposal of the product.

In addition to these records, sea water sites are also required to maintain records in relation to sea lice and containment under the Fish Farming Businesses (Record Keeping) (Scotland) Order 2008.

Sea water sites are required to maintain a current Farm Management Statement (FMS) or Farm Management Agreement (FMAg).

We may ask to examine these records and BMP when we visit.

3.10  Shellfish Farming Record-Keeping Requirements

Under the conditions of authorisation you are required to keep a record of mortalities and movements of any aquaculture animal or aquaculture animal product onto and off your farm or purification centre operated by the APB. You are also required to maintain and implement a BMP.

You are also required to hold copies of any health surveillance that has been conducted by, or on behalf of, the APB and the results of any health surveillance that we have carried out and reported to the APB.

The records of mortalities and the movements are essential to help us trace the source and spread of infection in the event of an outbreak of a serious disease of shellfish.

We may ask to examine these records and BMP when we visit.

3.11  Enhanced Inspections

The fish health inspectorate will conduct enhanced containment inspections and enhanced sea lice inspections at up to 10% of sites each year. This will include sites where a risk assessment has indicated a potential increased risk to containment or sea lice control.

3.12. Fish Farm Escapes

There is a legal obligation on any person who carries on the business of fish farming to inform Marine Scotland if any fish escape from a fish farm, or of circumstances which give rise to a significant risk of an escape occurring using a Notification form.

Marine Scotland may permit methods, which would otherwise be illegal, to recover escaped fish. The Fish Health Inspectorate will investigate escape incidents. Inspectors carry out a containment inspection during every routine fish farm site visit and will carry out a more detailed enhanced containment inspection at several fish farm sites every year, which will be determined by a risk-based approach.

3.13. Application of Movement Restrictions

If we suspect that a listed disease or an emerging disease is present or may become present, we will designate an area to prevent or limit the spread of that disease. No aquatic animal may be moved into, out of, or within the designated area, and no dead aquatic animal can be disposed of from the designated area without the permission of the Fish Health Inspectorate. In addition, it may be required to restrict the movement of equipment, materials, and substances and also restrict means of transport which are liable to transmit infection. This will be done by serving an Initial Designation Notice (IDN)

IDNs will be withdrawn when the Fish Health Inspectorate is satisfied that the suspected disease is not or is not likely to become present in the designated area, or the designation of the area is confirmed with the serving of a Confirmed Designation Notice (CDN).

A Prohibition Notice may be applied to control the movement of persons entering any farm or mollusc farming area within a designated area.

If the suspicion of the presence of a listed disease is confirmed, a CDN will be served. Maps are available  online detailing the location of all Confirmed Designation Notices.

In relation to the suspicion or confirmation of the presence of the bacterial disease Gaffkaemia within lobsters, a Lobster Order may be made under section 12 of the Sea Fisheries (Shellfish) Act 1967, which restricts the movement of live and dead lobsters into or out of any area specified in that order

Applications for permission to move fish or shellfish (live or dead), equipment and staff subject to movement restrictions should be sent to the Fish Health Inspectorate at least 14 days in advance of the planned movement. We will assess your application before providing a decision.

3.14 Epizootic Investigations

MSS carries out investigations on suspicion and/or confirmation of serious diseases to try and determine the source of infection and prevent its spread.

Investigations may include the analysis of movement records, collection of data on site visitors, food sources and the movement of equipment, boats and other materials liable to transmit infection. Testing may also be carried out at farms within the vicinity and those farms which have had contact with the infected farm.

This information assists us with identifying the spread of any infection.

3.15. Sampling for Veterinary Medicines Residues in Farmed Fish

We undertake sampling under The Animal and Animal Products (Examination for Residues and Maximum Residue Limits) Regulations 1997, as amended, and in accordance with Regulation 32 of the Veterinary Medicine Regulations on behalf of the Veterinary Medicines Directorate. Fish Health Inspectors have powers to:

  • inspect fish farm medicine records
  • take samples from farmed fish for veterinary medicines residue testing
  • investigate any positive results

3.16. Additional Information Sources

Additional information can be obtained from a number of MSS reports, surveys and Topic Sheets located under the Marine Scotland Publications pages. The website contains more details of diseases and controls, listed diseases and advice and data. Copies of many of the publications can be provided free of charge from the MSS Library.

Forms that are required for import/export, permission to move fish, authorisation/registration and other relevant forms from bodies other than the FHI are also available online.