Farmed fish health: Scotland's Farmed Fish Health Framework group minutes - February 2022

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 24 February 2022.

Attendees and apologies

  • Sheila Voas, Chair, Scottish Government (SG)
  • Julie Fitzpatrick, SG, Chief Scientific Adviser (CSA), Moredun
  • Iain Berrill, Salmon Scotland
  • Oliver Robinson, Brittish Trout Assocaition (BTA)
  • John Webster, Brittish Trout Assocaition (BTA)
  • Jim Gallagher, Scottish Sea Farms (SSF)
  • Richard Hopewell, Dawnfresh
  • Ronnie Soutar, Fish Vets
  • Heather Jones, Sustainable Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC)
  • Michael Montague, Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA)
  • Fraser Broadfoot, Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD)
  • Ken Stapleton, Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD)
  • Lorna King, SG, 
  • Rob Raynard, SG
  • Charles Allan, SG, Fish Health Inspectorate (FHI)
  • Vickie Curtis, Secretariat, SG


  • Ben Hadfield, MOWI
  • Donald Carmichael, SG
  • Bill Turrell, SG

Items and actions

Review of proposed structural changes to Farmed Fish Health Framework 

A discussion paper was circulated to the group that proposed the formation of a Farmed Fish Health Framework (FFHF) Strategy Group that would agree broad principles for collaborative working and define the actions for delivery by the steering group. The latter would become more operational and make greater use of workshops in order to explore issues of concern and generate a plan of action.

The group was broadly supportive of this new approach. However, the following points were made which should be noted:

  • the strategy group must be kept relatively small and focused
  • the composition of the steering group would remain as it is, but there is some flexibility. Those who attend the strategy group may also want to attend to the steering group (in an operational role), but may wish to delegate their place
  • sub-groups were used at the beginning of the FFHF (before the refresh in 2020), we must ensure that lessons from this previous approach are learned, and the workshop approach proposed today is effective
  • representation of the VMD at the strategy group was discussed. Given the specialisations of personnel, further consideration of who would be best to attend this group is required
  • new Marine Scotland (MS) resource will be dedicated to FFHF and enable the secretariat to take more of an active role. The secretariat will attend both groups
  • the new strategy group will need to meet relatively soon in order to set the agenda for the steering group. The latter are due to meet net on April 4, but this may need to be rescheduled


  • inaugural meeting of Strategy Group to be organised by the secretariat
  • VMD to let secretariat know who will attend this meeting

Discussion of treatments and vaccines

The Group was pleased to welcome Julie Fitzpatrick, the Chief Scientific Adviser for Scotland and Director of the Moredun Institute who outlined priorities for local food production, food security, and improved population health.

An overview was given on previous work on vaccines in aquaculture – particularly efforts to develop a sea lice vaccine. The development of such a vaccine would be highly beneficial to the industry. As a group, there are two possible courses of action:

  • a ‘wait and see’ approach where development of a sea lice vaccine is left for other organisations and interests. However, this could prove expensive as companies aim to collect the return on their investment
  • develop a vaccine in Scotland. We have the skill base in Higher Education Institutes etc. and Marine Scotland Science (MSS) has a testing facility. Funding could be problematic but we could make use of increases in UK funding for innovation (Defra, VMD) and ‘levelling up’, public-private partnerships, or partner with the sector in an EU country to access Horizon Funding

The following points were raised in the discussion.

  • public perception of the industry, environmental impact of medicine residues, and the impact on wild populations of salmon are key drivers for the development of a sea lice vaccine – as well as a desire from the industry
  • technological developments and the impact of Covid 19 on vaccine innovation means we are better placed to develop novel vaccines than ever before
  • a vaccine approach is preferred to a treatment approach, but the efficacy of a potential vaccine is a key consideration when it comes to investment
  • more could be made of knowledge sharing opportunities, especially with the sector in Norway
  • other infections are also important to the sector and vaccine for disease such as amoebic gill disease need to be considered
  • VMD highlighted the work of FishMedPlus, and suggested that vets with an interest in autogenous vaccines and/or fish biology be invited to attend the group
  • SAIC highlighted its work on an in-feed vaccine to boost mucosal immunity, and that this work will be presented at the Sea Lice Conference in May in the Faroe Islands
  • Intellectual property (IP) and patents were discussed particularly as a barrier to innovation. Such issues would need to be addressed before any collaborative work or research on vaccine development begins. The benefits of an ‘open science’ approach were highlighted by the CSA
  • the Annual Production Survey and data available on vaccine use in Scottish Aquaculture was highlighted


  • sector to explore increased collaboration with the sector in Norway on vaccine development
  • MS to consider MOU with Norway, and how this could be developed
  • details of what is available at Marine Scotland Science pathogen bank, and how this could be developed will be shared
  • MS to explore how vaccine / treatment data could be better represented on the Annual Production Survey

Next steps

After the discussion with the CSA, the Chair suggested that there would be value in putting together a workshop on vaccines which SAIC has volunteered to organise. The following points were made:

  • the objectives of the workshop need to be clearly defined
  • cleaner fish must also be considered in future work
  • SAIC could hold a workshop in June at the earliest
  • the group needs to think about other areas for attention


  • MS to seek funding for a vaccines workshop
  • medicines Working Group to liaise with SAIC and MS to plan the workshop
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