Publication - FOI/EIR release

Employees of Marine Scotland trained to identify sea lice species: EIR release

Published: 3 Feb 2021

Information request and response under the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004

Published:
3 Feb 2021
Employees of Marine Scotland trained to identify sea lice species: EIR release
FOI reference: FOI/202000113655
Date received: 18 Nov 2020
Date responded: 15 Dec 2020
Information requested

1. How many people at Marine Scotland are trained to identify salmonid sea lice species present on fish farms in Scotland?

2. Please provide details of the training received and when it was delivered.

3. Please breakdown the numbers of those individuals trained by each department.

4. How many times in 2018, 2019 & 2020 has anyone from Marine Scotland inspected a salmon farm for the specific purpose of counting sea lice or, as part of a routine inspection, counted sea lice on farmed salmon?

5. Salmon farmers are required to keep weekly sea lice counts and also report sea lice levels exceeding thresholds set out in "The Regulation of Sea Lice in Scotland" policy. What steps has Marine Scotland taken in 2018, 2019 & 2020 to verify the numbers reported?

Response

As the information you have requested is 'environmental information' for the purposes of the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004 (EIRs), we are required to deal with your request under those Regulations. We are applying the exemption at section 39(2) of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA), so that we do not also have to deal with your request under FOISA.

This exemption is subject to the 'public interest test'. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemption, because there is no public interest in dealing with the same request under two different regimes. This is essentially a technical point and has no material effect on the outcome of your request.

Some of the information you have requested is available from the Scottish Government website, details of these information resources are contained within the answers to your specific queries detailed below. Under regulation 6(1)(b) of the EIRs, we do not have to give you information which is already publicly available and easily accessible to you in another form or format. 

1. There are a number of individuals across Marine Scotland who have the appropriate skills to allow the identification of sea lice species and stages with respect to salmonid fish.

With respect to inspections of fish farm sites in relation to sea lice, within Scottish Government this is the sole function of the Fish Health Inspectorate (FHI). All Fish Health Inspectors, who undertake field based aquatic animal health surveillance activities (surveillance), are required to complete specific training in relation to sea lice (please see the following section for more details as to what is covered by this training) as part of a wider FHI training programme. The process of training involves a significant amount of time shadowing experienced inspectors operating in the field and being mentored to ensure an appropriate level of competence has been attained.

There are presently ten Senior Fish Health Inspectors who regularly undertake surveillance, and four Technical Managers who occasionally take part in these field based activities. All of these individuals have received specific sea lice training.

2. Sea lice training has been delivered through a series of internal workshops offering hands on experience to delegates in order to differentiate between the species and stages of sea lice affecting salmonids in Scotland. In addition, an overview of sea lice biology, together with the impacts of sea lice on fish and the management practices in relation to fish farming also forms part of the training.

Such training is delivered as and when required. It is delivered to all new staff, or existing staff who need a refresh.

Sea lice specific training has been delivered during 2008, 2009, 2013, 2014, 2016, and 2019.

3. With respect to sea lice inspection on fish farm sites, of the current staff members undertaking this activity all 14 (representing 100%) have received the sea lice training described above.

4. The purpose of the surveillance conducted in relation to sea lice, in accordance with the Aquaculture and Fisheries (Scotland) Act 2007 (as amended), is to ascertain the level of sea lice on site and assessing the measures in place with respect to the prevention, control and reduction of sea lice (Caligus elongatus and Lepeophtheirus salmonis) within the farmed fish stocks on site.

Details of the inspector’s actions and activities conducted in relation to surveillance are recorded within the case paperwork associated with the inspection. This information is made publicly available on the Scottish Government website:
https://www.gov.scot/collections/publication-of-fish-health-inspectorate-information/

Surveillance involving sea lice inspection is identifiable through the specific case types SLI (sea lice inspection) and SLA (enhanced sea lice inspection). You can find further details regarding the activities undertaken with respect to both SLI and SLA inspections by visiting the Scottish Government website:
https://www.gov.scot/policies/fish-health-inspectorate/

Inspecting a fish farm’s sea lice counting procedure forms part of the enhanced inspection process. This is necessary to establish if the observation, identification and recording of sea lice numbers and stages is satisfactory on site. This activity may also be witnessed out with the enhanced inspection where it coincides with an inspection being undertaken by the inspector for other purposes.

It is not a requirement of surveillance for inspectors to conduct their own sea lice counts although this provision exists through the enhanced inspection. An inspector would only undertake their own sea lice count if the procedures on site were not considered satisfactory e.g. there were concerns about the counting procedure or the site sea lice records did not correspond with the physical inspection of the fish on site. Published case information will detail all the activities undertaken during a site inspection, but it is important to note that sea lice counts will only be carried out by inspectors in the circumstances described above.

5. When sea lice counts are reported to the Scottish Government, we may follow up on these reports asking for confirmation of the numbers reported and for details of any proposed or ongoing management actions where necessary. On-site inspection, through our surveillance programme, is undertaken to verify the numbers reported.

Records of sea lice numbers are inspected as part of either an SLI or SLA inspection, as part of the Scottish Government’s surveillance programme. While the inspector is on site, physical inspection of the stock is also undertaken. This allows the inspector to assess whether the records maintained correspond with the physical observation of the fish on site. As explained above, inspectors may also witness counts being undertaken by staff on site, providing further confidence in the numbers being recorded and reported.

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Contact

Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Email: ceu@gov.scot
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
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