11.1 Potential for Environmental Effects of Industry Growth
11.1.1 The assessment identified a range of potential environmental issues, both positive and adverse, relating to both seaweed cultivation and commercial seaweed harvesting in the wild. These potential impacts largely relate to the key role that seaweed plays in Scotland's marine ecosystems and coastal areas, and the national and international value attributed to many of the habitats they support.
11.1.2 The assessment found that many of the potential impacts identified with seaweed cultivation operations and commercial harvesting in the wild are likely to be site-specific. In terms of cultivation, the potential impacts are likely to be dependent on both project design and environmental factors.
11.1.3 In general terms, shellfish-scale or IMTA cultivation as outlined in the Consultation Document is considered less likely to result in significant environmental impacts, such as benthic impacts, collision risk and navigational issues, than larger-scale developments. However, it is also considered that undertaking cultivation operations in offshore areas may overcome many of the potential issues that have been identified for near-shore developments ( e.g. spatial competition, coastal impacts). The SEA found that the use of seaweed cultivation in IMTA can have positive environmental effects for biodiversity and water quality, mitigating some negative impacts from finfish aquaculture.
11.1.4 The assessment identified that Scotland's natural seaweeds are an important resource. It found that sustainable management of this resource is vital, and that failure to implement appropriate harvesting practices could have adverse impacts on seaweed biodiversity in local and wider marine communities. Factors such as the method of harvesting, the harvesting intensity and frequency, seasonality, and the seaweed species being harvested can all influence the ecological impacts of commercial harvesting operations, and affect the sustainability of the resource and the flora and fauna it supports.
11.2 Likely Effects of the Policies Contained in the Consultation Document
11.2.1 The SEA also assessed the policies presented in the Consultation Document and evaluated their potential for significant environmental effects. The assessment found that the policies detailed in the Consultation Document will likely contribute to overall positive environmental effects for biodiversity and water quality, particularly in relation to IMTA. Policies such as the Scottish Government's support for the cultivation of seaweeds that are native to the area of cultivation were considered likely to complement wider policy to preserve genetic integrity of natural seaweeds. Others, such as the use of fit-for-purpose equipment and consideration of other marine users to address potential siting conflicts, were included to address environmental issues identified in this SEA.
11.2.2 The SEA noted that the main role of an adopted SPS would be in the encouragement of the sustainable development of seaweed cultivation and IMTA, and its potential for creating additional interest amongst industry.
11.3 Additional Considerations
11.3.1 Due to the site-specific nature of many potential environmental issues associated with future seaweed cultivation developments, these may be best considered and assessed at the project level.
11.3.2 The concerns expressed on the potential for adverse impacts associated with increased commercial harvesting of Scotland's natural seaweed stocks, particularly kelp, were also noted. It was considered the Consultation Document and the consultation process may provide a valuable tool for engagement with the commercial wild harvesting industry and other stakeholders to discuss practical options for managing the sustainable growth of the industry ( i.e. development of guidance for commercial harvesting in the wild).
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