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

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

Attendees and apologies

  • Sheila Voas, Chair, Scottish Government (SG)
  • Malcolm Pentland, SG
  • Lorna King, SG
  • Vickie Curtis, SG
  • Charles Allan, SG, Fish Health Inspectorate (FHI)
  • Mike Montague, Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA)
  • Fraser Broadfoot, Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD)
  • Ronnie Soutar, Fish Vets
  • Jim Gallagher, Scottish Sea Farms (SSF)
  • Sarah Riddle, Sustainable Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC)
  • John Webster, Brittish Trout Assocaition (BTA)


  • Oliver Robinson, Brittish Trout Assocaition (BTA)
  • Heather Jones, Sustainable Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC)
  • Iain Berrill (Salmon Scotland

Items and actions

Welcome from the Chair

This was the first meeting since February 2022. The Chair welcomed the Group back and highlighted the paper circulated, which summarised some of the issues raised at the last meeting and how they are / or will be addressed.

There are some changes to the group: Rob Reynard of Marine Scotland Science (MSS) has now retired; Ken Stapleton is no longer with the VMD; and Malcolm Pentland is now the Deputy Director of the Seafood Trade, Aquaculture, and Recreational Fisheries Division at the Scottish Government.

Update: vaccines; SAIC work on HABs and DO; sea lice on fish farms

An update was provided on the work that followed the presentation on vaccines given to the Group by Julie Fitzpatrick, Chief Scientific Adviser (CSA) at the meeting in January 2022. The group agreed to continue with plans to hold a workshop, (chaired by the CSA), to explore research currently being undertaken and the capacity for further work in developing suitable vaccines. The group also agreed to focus on the following infections: Amoebic gill disease (AGD), Cardiomyopathy syndrome (CMS), Saprolegnia, sea lice, and Flavobacterium psychrophilum.

The group reviewed the work that has been completed by SAIC on harmfull algal blooms (HABs) including potential projects that could follow on that will help in the creation of early warning systems, including training for those in the sector. A discussion followed on the problems experienced by the sector this autumn with zooplankton and hydrozoans, and the need to include these species in further work. There is a need to understand both what is happening now, and what may develop in the longer term.

SG budget limitations were also raised, and the need to explore other sources of funding. An update was provided on the Marine Fund Scotland: there will be no further funding calls this year, but there will be a new funding call in 2023 – most likely in March.

SAIC gave the group an update on the work it has conducted on dissolved oxygen (DO) which will help us to gain a greater understanding of available data, and the geographical distribution of data points. Possible future projects were outlined which will further explore temporal and geographical variations in DO. Sector stressed the importance of obtaining a Scotland-wide picture of these trends and explained how DO levels affect animal husbandry. One objective of further research should be to enable prediction / early warning of moving bodies of water with low DO, on both a local and a wider geographical scale.

An update was given to the group on a recent decision by the Cabinet Secretary to postpone the lowering of the reporting and intervention levels of sea lice on fish farms from 6 and 2, to 4 and 2, respectively. However, given the importance of farmed fish health and welfare, this commitment may be revisited at a later date.


  • continue discussions with CSA on format and potential delegates with aim to holding a workshop in Q1 2023
  • zooplankton / hydrozoans to be included in this workstream alongside phytoplankton
  • group to consider where FFHF can add value in improving understanding of the impact in DO variation. E.g., how do fish react to DO challenges?
  • SG will write to Salmon Scotland and the BTA to inform them of the decision regarding sea lice

Forward look

The group took this opportunity to discuss next steps with regard to other issues that the FFHF has been considering.

SG informed the group that the budget allocated for the work on non-lethal control of seals at fish farms was no longer available, and considered other sources of funding, and how the group can work collectively on this issue going forward.

SAIC reported on its recent work on the effect on ADDs on a population of Harbour porpoises, and how new technologies are coming into this space.

A discussion followed on the seriousness of the problem for the sector, and how more information is needed on the population of seals, and also how any sector response intersects with current policy (e.g., consents).

The group was informed that the seals issue is to be discussed at the upcoming QUAD to be held in Edinburgh on December 1. QUAD members include Scotland, Canada, Chile, Norway, and the Faroes. This will be used as an opportunity to discuss the experience of other nations and explore whether there are opportunities for collaboration.

VMD alerted the group to the publication of the UK Veterinary Antibiotic Resistance and Sales Surveillance (VARSS) report, and that antibiotic use has increased in the salmon sector (marine phase), but that this increase was limited to a small number of farms.


  • FFHF to have further discussion (or workshop) on preventing and deterring seals from entering fish pens. Discussion to consider wider policy context
  • SG to update group on QUAD discussions at next FFHF meeting
  • antibiotic use to be brought into the medicines subgroup for further discussion
  • Chair requested that antibiotic use be raised at the next meeting and that the group should have an understanding of this issue
  • Chair also requested that a written update of any outstanding actions be provided to the FFHF Secretariat by December 2

Next meeting date

 Thursday 2 February 2023, 11:00 - 13:00

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