Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Act 2005 Aquaculture and Fisheries Bill Consultation Document Environmental Report February 2012

This Environmental Report sets out the results of the assessment of the possible environmental effects of provisions in the Aquaculture and Fisheries Bill.


Current Situation

5.1 Farm management areas ( FMAs) were originally established in Scottish waters in January 2000 to manage Infectious Salmon Anaemia ( ISA) [30] and are now used as the basis of an integrated management strategy for controlling disease and sea-lice in finfish aquaculture areas and limiting the potential impacts on the wider marine environment.

5.2 A total of 104 Atlantic Salmon farms operated by 31 companies were in active production in Scotland in 2010 [31] . The total production of Atlantic salmon during 2010 was 154,164 tonnes. Production was concentrated in larger sites, with over 80% of production concentrated in sites yielding greater than 1,000 tonnes per year.

5.3 A total of 87 FMAs are currently established, in Shetland (12), Orkney (4), the Western Isles (22) and the Scottish mainland (49) [1] , of which 64 had operating salmon farms stocked with fish (as of August 2011) [32] . The delineation of the FMAs, detailed in the Code of Good Practice ( CoGP), is subject to periodic review to account for changes in finfish farm operations, production and ownership of farms within individual FMAs.

5.4 At present, the CoGP website and Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation ( SSPO) report, respectively, that between 95% and 98% [33] of Scottish salmon production is undertaken by farmers who have adopted the CoGP. Similarly, approximately 90% of Scottish trout production is undertaken by farmers who are registered and independently audited under an equivalent scheme based on components of the CoGP.

5.5 Farming activities within each FMA are covered by either a documented Farm Management Statement ( FMS, if a single farm is operating in an FMA) or Farm Management Agreement ( FMAg, if multiple farms are operating in an FMA) with conditions of the agreements being specific to each particular FMAg. These agreements are currently voluntary, with operators within an FMA agreeing to adopt similar and co-ordinated farming practices, such as the use of licensed and approved sea-lice treatment medicines, single year class production, area management, synchronisation of production, and fallowing at the end of the production cycle. In some cases, a FMAg will focus mainly on stocking and production cycles, fallowing arrangements and sea-lice management while, in others, they may be limited to issues such as individual fish health.

5.6 The CoGP recommends that farm operators undertake non-therapeutic management practices and treatment with veterinary medicines to both disrupt the sea-lice life cycle, and to minimise the quantity of lice present on farms throughout the year. Research reported in the CoGP indicates that best results are achieved through co-ordinated louse treatments undertaken during the early spring and early winter. The CoGP (Annex 11) notes that "a primary objective of the strategy [National Strategy for Sea-Lice Control] should be a target of zero adult female sea-lice on the farmed fish in the spring period when wild salmonids are migrating".


5.7 The proposed provisions include:

  • a legal duty for all finfish farm operators to enter into a Farm Management Agreement ( FMAg)
  • dispute resolution process: powers for Scottish Ministers to arbitrate
  • industry to determine boundaries of FMAg; Scottish Ministers to have fallback powers to specify FMAg boundaries in particular circumstances.

Potential Effects

5.8 The proposed introduction of the legal requirement that all finfish farm operators in the marine environment must participate in an FMAg follows on from a recommendation of the Healthier Fish Working Group review in 2010 [34] . The proposed provision would make mandatory an activity which is currently voluntary. Although the majority of finfish farms currently work within a FMAg, this measure would result in all fish farms being managed in this way.

5.9 At present, operators have the primary responsibility for determining the boundaries of FMAs, and this will not change under the proposals in the Bill. However, the proposal for Scottish Ministers to have powers to specify FMA boundaries and other relevant measures within an FMA when in the wider public and environmental interest, may have several benefits, for example, in the control and management of disease or parasite outbreaks or if there are significant sea-lice problems and significantly challenged wild salmonid populations and evidence of connectivity between sites.

5.10 There may be instances where, for a variety of operational or other reasons, it may not be possible for operators readily to agree mutually acceptable arrangements. The proposal for a dispute resolution process is intended to address this. The benefit of this would be the resolution of disputes and the consequent adherence to the appropriate FMAg practices.

5.11 Taken together, the key outcome of the proposed provisions would be the co-ordination of management practices, the sharing of information and the appropriate delineation of boundaries, resulting in the co-ordinated control of sea-lice and pathogens in all farms within the designated FMAs, thereby reducing the risk of unacceptable sea-lice burdens and the spread of disease (with a consequent reduction in the use of therapeutant). This would likely have additional benefits for the marine environment and wild salmonid populations.


5.12 As no significant negative effects from these provisions have been identified, no mitigation measures are required. Given the high-level nature of the provisions, enhancement measures have not been proposed at this stage of the Bill's development.

Effects of Continuing the Status Quo

5.13 At present the CoGP is voluntary and there is no legal requirement for operators to sign up to FMAgs, nor any sanctions for failure to do so. There is a risk that those operators (albeit relatively few) operating outside the CoGP may undermine the efforts of those working on a co-operative basis, with associated risks to those other farmers and the wider environment, i.e. wild salmonids.


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