Draft Seaweed Policy Statement Consultation Paper

Consultation paper on policy options for seaweed cultivation in Scotland

4 Approach to the SEA

4.1 Purpose of this SEA

4.1.1 The main purpose of this SEA was to inform the development of the SPS through the identification and assessment of the potential environmental effects associated with the future growth of seaweed cultivation operations and harvesting in the wild so that these could be considered, and where appropriate, addressed in the policy statement. One of main roles of the SEA has been to identify whether there are environmental issues that need to be taken into account at the national policy level.

4.1.2 The SEA reflects the broad and high level nature of policies proposed for inclusion in the SPS, whilst documenting the integration of the policy development and SEA processes.

4.2 An Integrated Approach

4.2.1 The SEA was undertaken using a 'bottom-up' iterative approach, and the findings of this assessment played a key role in steering and developing the policies in the Consultation Document from an early stage. The SEA process was initially used to engage with the Consultation Authorities at the scoping stage, to identify potential environmental considerations associated with growth of the commercial cultivation and wild harvesting industries and, as a consequence, helped to steer the direction of the SPS development process, and identify options to address potential concerns.

4.2.2 The progression of the assessment continued to aid the development of the SPS, its findings prompting the inclusion of specific policies into the Consultation Document itself, whilst also allowing the consideration and comparison of reasonable alternatives. As such, many of the policies within the Consultation Document address potential effects or concerns raised in the SEA, with several acting to mitigate against potential environmental impacts.

4.3 Assessment of Potential Environmental Effects

4.3.1 At an early stage, the SEA identified potential generic environmental effects associated with undertaking seaweed cultivation and harvesting seaweed in the wild at the local level ( i.e. the single operation scale). In this process, existing knowledge of seaweed cultivation, wild harvesting practices and environmental issues was collated and used to assess small-scale cultivation operations in the first instance. It was assumed that small-scale or shellfish-scale seaweed cultivation developments were likely to be similar in design and infrastructure to shellfish farms.

4.3.2 The potential effects identified were then 'scaled-up' to consider larger-scale operations. Studies and research into larger-scale cultivation were used to consider likely impacts of such operations in isolation, and the potential for cumulative impacts from multiple operations at the local and regional levels. Ultimately, the potential significance of these effects was considered at the national level.

4.3.3 This process was started in the scoping phase (see Section 4.5) where it was used to engage with the Consultation Authorities (see section 4.4). The information gathered was used to inform the assessment (see Section 4.6).

4.4 Engagement During the SEA Process

4.4.1 In addition to the statutory periods of consultation for the screening and scoping reports, the Consultation Authorities were engaged during the assessment stage to obtain their views on the focus and direction of the proposed SPS, and to assist in the identification of potential environmental impacts for consideration in this SEA.

4.4.2 Additional input was also received from SNH in the gathering of baseline information and identifying of potential environmental impacts associated specifically with harvesting of seaweed in the wild. These contributions have been referenced in this report where appropriate.

4.5 Scoping of SEA topics for inclusion in the assessment

4.5.1 The Scoping Report for the proposed SPS was prepared in September 2012. It presented an initial overview of the seaweed cultivation and wild harvesting industries in Scotland and at the global scale, and outlined the initial stage of thinking in relation to seaweed policy and the potential for environmental impacts associated with the growth of these industries. The Scoping Report was prepared at an early stage in the SPS development to inform the development of the Consultation Document, and to build on the early engagement of the Consultation Authorities in assisting the identification of potential environmental effects for assessment.

4.5.2 The Scoping Report also identified the range of data sources to be used in identifying and analysing the baseline data for this SEA. The environmental topics considered likely to be affected by the development of the SPS and its Consultation Document, and therefore included in this assessment, were agreed with the Consultation Authorities (Table 4.1). Air was the only topic area scoped out of the SEA, as the activities involved in seaweed cultivation give rise to few atmospheric emissions (other than from the boats involved in operations). It was considered unlikely that the adoption of the SPS would result in significant effects on air quality.

Table 4.1: Scoping of Environmental Issues

Environmental Topics

Scoped In

Climatic Factors

Biodiversity, Flora and Fauna

Population and Human Health


Soil, Geology and Coastal Processes



Cultural Heritage


Material Assets (Shipping and Industry)

4.5.3 Section 5 of this report presents background information on seaweed cultivation and harvesting in the wild, while Section 6 presents the environmental information relevant to the assessment, by environmental topic area. Together, these sections form the environmental baseline of this assessment.

4.6 Assessment Methodology

4.6.1 The environmental assessment has considered the two key sectors of the commercial seaweed industry included in the Consultation Document, each an industry in its own right with its own requirements and environmental issues:

  • Commercial-scale seaweed cultivation operations, including cultivation as part of IMTA operations.
  • Commercial harvesting of seaweed in the wild.

4.6.2 The SEA investigates the potential environmental effects of the policies contained in the Consultation Document in the context of these two sectors, both positive and negative. It also evaluates the reasonable alternatives to adoption of the proposed SPS and its policies, and identifies appropriate mitigation measures that could be introduced on a strategic scale for each of the topic areas.

4.6.3 The policies contained within the Consultation Document have been assessed against the environmental objectives developed in the scoping stage, and the assessment is presented in this report in a series of mind maps with accompanying narrative. The environmental assessment of these two key areas, consideration of reasonable alternatives and evaluation of the cumulative and synergistic effects, are presented in Sections 7 to 10.

4.7 Consideration of Options

4.7.1 A number of broad high-level alternatives in focus for the proposed SPS were discussed at an early stage in its development. Over the course of its development, a number of additional options were also considered for the management and/or mitigation of the potential generic environmental impacts identified in the SEA.

4.7.2 The consideration of these options and assessment of reasonable alternatives to the policies in the Consultation Document is outlined in Section 6.11 and assessed in Section 9 of this report.


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