Section 3: Related Issues
Wild seaweed harvesting
This section of the document considers the harvesting of wild seaweed for commercial purposes, but not harvesting for personal use. Section 8 of the SEA Environmental Report sets out information on wild seaweed harvesting and its potential environmental effects.
Scotland's wild seaweed harvesting industry is currently centred on sites of seaweed stocks on the western and northern isles, where the harvesting is commonly undertaken by hand, although mechanised harvesting also takes place.
The SEA Environmental Report identifies some potential negative impacts from over-harvesting of wild seaweeds, including temporary loss of habitats and damage to the seabed. In addition, there may be an impact on coastal processes such as loss of storm resistance.
However, the SEA Environmental Report also notes that while there are potential negative environmental effects from this activity, there is currently no evidence that any adverse environmental effects are taking place in Scotland.
At present there is no regulatory control over the harvesting of wild seaweed. The only requirement is to obtain permission from the land owner (which is most often The Crown Estate). Given the lack of evidence regarding negative impacts this draft policy statement does not consider a new regulatory regime necessary.
We recognise that should there be growth in this industry, environmental effects will be more likely. We therefore suggest that the development of guidance could be useful to promote good practice and mitigate against negative impacts, and may be considered in the future.
As part of the Scottish Government's aspirations to support and develop the diversification of the aquaculture sector, we wish to ensure that fish farming planning legislation is flexible to allow such diversification (regardless of what conclusions are reached on the regulation of seaweed).
Currently the definition in the legislation provides that aquaculture development includes fish or shellfish, including sea urchin, crustacean or mollusc.
We are aware of interest in farming other species, and there is concern that the 1997 Act does not currently allow the diversification into other species such as sea cucumbers, which farmers may wish to grow. In order to resolve this issue we may wish to consider updating the 1997 Act to provide flexibility for operators to apply to farm other species, or specific species, by naming.