Publication - Consultation analysis

Planning Scotland's Seas: Scotland's National Marine Plan. Consultation Response Analysis Report

Published: 2 May 2014
Part of:
Marine and fisheries
ISBN:
9781784124182

Planning Scotland’s Seas: Scotland’s National Marine Plan was published for consultation in July 2013. Independent analysis of all written responses to the consultation has been undertaken and is presented in this report.

Planning Scotland's Seas: Scotland's National Marine Plan. Consultation Response Analysis Report
8 AQUACULTURE

8 AQUACULTURE

Chapter summary

  • More respondents disagreed (16) than agreed (7) that this chapter appropriately sets out the relationship between land use and marine planning for Aquaculture. Respondents in the environment/ conservation and fisheries sectors commented that the document currently provides no indication that aquaculture is regulated under the land use planning system. There was a preference for aquaculture to be integrated into marine planning processes to help clarify and create consistency across all marine activities and to create a more strategic approach to aquaculture.
  • There were some comments that the Draft Planning Circular provides greater detail and that there should be better linkage between this and the NMP. There were also come calls for better linkage with other legislation and for consistent references to aquaculture across different documents.
  • Some respondents noted the need to be able to balance competing interests; and the potential for spatial constraints to impact negatively on the aquaculture sector.
  • There was a degree of support for the presumption against marine fish farms on Scotland's east coast, although much of this support was qualified.
  • There were requests for a section on 'interactions with other users' in this chapter so that it is in line with other sectoral chapters.
  • Views were relatively polarised on the objective targets, with some comments that it is inappropriate to set sector specific targets within this chapter.
  • A number of respondents commented on the 3 year project being undertaken by Marine Scotland, with the suggestion from some that targets for growth should not be set without completion of this work to identify areas of opportunity and constraint. There were also references to recent work undertaken by Rivers and Fisheries Trusts of Scotland ( RAFTS) and the need for this to be referenced within the NMP.
  • There were some comments on the need to give greater consideration to sustainability issues.

8.1 The Draft National Marine Plan noted that aquaculture in Scotland is a growing and increasingly important industry, with farmed salmon being Scotland's most valuable food export. The Plan noted some key issues facing aquaculture, outlined a number of planning policies and commented on the future for this sector.

The relationship between land use and marine planning for Aquaculture

8.2 Three questions were posed in relation to this chapter. The first, Question 14 asked:

Question 14: Does Chapter 7 appropriately set out the relationship between land use and marine planning for Aquaculture? Are there any planning changes which might be included to optimise the future sustainable development of aquaculture?

8.3 As can be seen in the table below, 40 respondents commented on this question. Of those providing a definitive 'yes' or 'no' response, a greater number disagreed (16) that Chapter 7 appropriately set out the relationship between land use and marine planning for aquaculture than agreed (7).

Table 8.1 Question 14: Does Chapter 7 appropriately set out the relationship between terrestrial and marine planning for Aquaculture? Are there any planning changes which might be included to optimise the future sustainable development of aquaculture?

Respondent group Yes No Neither yes or no
Individuals (16) 1 - 2
Academic / scientific (7) - 1 3
Aquaculture (5) 1 3 1
Energy (12) 1 - -
Environment / conservation (9) - 4 2
Fisheries (13) - - 3
Historic / Heritage (5) - - -
Industry / transport (9) - - -
Local Authority (15) 2 4 3
Local coastal partnership (7) 1 - 1
Local group (5) - - -
Other public sector (10) 1 2 1
Recreation / Tourism (7) - - 1
Other (4) - 2 -
Total (124) 7 16 17

8.4 A key comment emerging from organisations within the environment/ conservation and fisheries sectors was that the document as it stands provides no indication that aquaculture is currently regulated under the land use planning system. These organisations called for the integration of aquaculture into marine planning processes so that activity can be encompassed within the remit of Marine Scotland and facilitate greater clarity, continuity and consistency across all marine activities. A few respondents also noted that the Draft Planning Circular provides greater detail and there should be greater linkage between the two documents. For example, a public sector organisation suggested the Draft NMP should provide a summary of the connection between land use and marine planning, with reference to the Planning Circular in this chapter. As noted by one respondent:

"There is no reference to the Town and Country Planning Act or the Controlled Activities Regulations. We are content that this relationship is adequately set out in the Draft Planning Circular, but we could find no reference to this document in the draft plan."

8.5 There were also some references to planning authorities having responsibility for aquaculture; that this does not allow for a strategic approach to aquaculture or that there is a need to encourage consistent application of national policy across all planning authorities. A respondent within the fisheries sector suggested a need for detailed guidance for all local planning authorities so that these can be applied consistently on a national basis. A respondent in the aquaculture sector commented:

"Chapter 7 lays out what currently happens under the individual planning regimes, however it does not detail the relationship between them or how they will interact in the future. The streamlining process must be robust and not rely on the expectation that either marine or terrestrial plans will 'take account' of the other when dealing with aquaculture developments."

8.6 As well as requests for better linkage with the Planning Circular, there were also a small number of references to the need for greater linkage with legislation including the Town and Country Planning Act and the Aquaculture and Fisheries (Scotland) Act 2007. Some forms of documentation relating to the latter were also cited and these included Controlled Activities Regulations, Farm Management Agreements, Area Management Agreements and Farm Management Statements. A small number of respondents also referred to the need to ensure that there is reference to the relevant content within the draft Scottish Planning Policy or National Planning Framework 3 or that references to aquaculture in different documents need to be consistent.

8.7 An aquaculture organisation commented on the need to be able to balance competing interests, for example, potential friction between regulators, conservationists and fishermen. The same organisation suggested spatial constraints could have negative impacts on the catching sector unless there is a presumption in favour of fishing. However they noted that an adaptive management approach should help with this issue.

8.8 There was some support for the presumption against marine fish farms on Scotland's east coast, although one respondent noted that this might be less applicable in the future. The same respondent also noted that the plan needs to take account of the need to secure high health status hatcheries onshore and offshore in order to underpin sustainable growth in the sector.

8.9 Three respondents in the fisheries sector noted the need for reporting and monitoring mechanisms to be in place that will protect the future of finfish aquaculture and protect wild salmonid populations. A Local Coastal Partnership also made reference to the need to safeguard wild fish populations and to ensure this is sustainable for the future.

Other comments on Aquaculture

8.10 Respondents were asked:

Question 15: Do you have any comments on Aquaculture, Chapter 7?

8.11 Thirty-seven respondents provided a response to this question (see table 8.2 below). Comments came primarily from respondents within aquaculture, environment/ conservation, fisheries, Local Authorities and the public sector.

Table 8.2 Question 15: Do you have any comments on Aquaculture, Chapter 7?

Respondent group
Individuals (16) 2
Academic / scientific (7) 1
Aquaculture (5) 5
Energy (12) -
Environment / conservation (9) 7
Fisheries (13) 5
Historic / Heritage (5) 1
Industry / transport (9) -
Local Authority (15) 6
Local coastal partnership (7) 2
Local group (5) -
Other public sector (10) 4
Recreation / Tourism (7) 3
Other (4) 1
Total (124) 37

8.12 A number of respondents, primarily within the aquaculture and environment/ conservation sectors gave their support for one, some or all of the objectives and policies laid out in this chapter, although some of this support was qualified. A respondent in the environment/ conservation sector commented that the objectives as they stand are too focused on economic growth and do not address the objectives for aquaculture in the context of marine planning. A respondent in the fisheries sector noted that there is a need to safeguard the economic viability of this sector.

8.13 A number of respondents commented on the need for a section on 'interactions with other users' as this would bring this chapter into line with other sectoral chapters in the Draft NMP.

8.14 A number of respondents commented on the targets within the objectives of this chapter, although views on the appropriateness of these were fairly polarised. Some of these respondents commented that these targets might not be feasible or were too challenging, or that they were unsure how these targets had been calculated. One respondent in a Local Authority noted that the setting of tonnage production targets does not necessarily constitute sustainable economic growth and suggested that an alternative would be to have indicative annual percentage increases and link this into increases in added value of both the raw and finished product.

8.15 Another respondent in the 'other' sector commented that it is inappropriate to include sector specific targets within the Draft NMP and that it is preferable to have overriding objectives within which targets can be delivered. Furthermore, they noted that there is no mention of any assessment of the environmental carrying capacity for such a growth in production, and questioned whether or not this growth would be sustainable. A respondent within a Local Authority noted that the market for shellfish has now flattened out and this level of growth would not be feasible.

8.16 Only one respondent - within the public sector - felt that these targets could be met, either within the existing network of designated sites or with additional designated sites. Another respondent within the public sector commented that the sectoral objectives have ambitious economic growth targets and that these might not be compatible with strategic outcomes and other policies and that, at best, these would need to be reviewed regularly.

8.17 A small number of respondents also noted the need to consider sustainability issues. Two respondents also queried why the Pacific Oyster had been singled out for inclusion, given that biosecurity is a cross-sectoral and cross-species issue.

8.18 One respondent within the academic/ scientific sector also felt that aquaculture should not be considered in isolation and that there needs to be a recognition of competition between the aquaculture, wild salmon and fisheries sectors.

8.19 There were also some comments about the need to ensure that developments within this sector are compatible with developments in other sectors; for example, any expansion of the aquaculture sector to more exposed or larger offshore sites could lead to more competitive interactions with inshore fishing; or that small-scale geodiversity features on the seabed could be damaged by potential developments.

8.20 An aquaculture organisation suggested there should be an explicit statement in favour of resource sharing but also felt that there should be protected rights for fishermen in critically important areas. A fisheries organisation commented on the need for detailed guidance for local planning authorities to ensure consistent nationwide application.

8.21 Three respondents within the fisheries sector commented that there should be a planning presumption in favour of the removal of redundant equipment.

8.22 A number of respondents, across all sub-groups, made reference to the presumption against further marine finfish farm developments on the north and east coasts of Scotland to help safeguard migratory fish species. Most comments in relation to this aspect of the chapter were qualified. For example, an organisation in the public sector felt a review is needed to ascertain whether or not the presumption should apply to all marine finfish species or just marine cultivation of migratory species. An organisation in the 'other' sector noted that while they supported the presumption against further finfish farm developments on the north and east coasts, there would also be other salmon and sea trout fisheries within the aquaculture sector that could benefit from area-based protection.

8.23 Two respondents (one in the aquaculture sector and a Local Authority) suggested that this presumption should be revisited because of a lack of evidence to support this. Another Local Authority simply noted that this presumption is imbalanced.

8.24 An organisation within the environment/ conservation sector felt it was unclear as to why migratory species with origins in the rivers or west coast or western and northern isles are not offered the same protection. They also went on to comment that locational guidance should be reviewed. For example, that this makes no provision for other existing and future marine acts or proposed Marine Protected Areas or MPS search locations or existing and potential future Special Protection Areas or Special Areas of Conservation.

8.25 A number of respondents commented on the 3-year project being undertaken by Marine Scotland. A key comment was that targets for growth should not, or cannot, be set without completion of the plan to identify areas of opportunity and constraint. There were also requests for more widespread consultation with industry and other stakeholders and provision of an explanation as to how this study will be used and what the implications will be for Local Development Plans and Regional Marine Plans.

8.26 Allied to the need for more consultation, there were requests for linkage with other land use development plans. There was also a request for balanced planning guidance at a national level.

8.27 A number of respondents referred to the need for a sustainable approach or for the need to consider sustainability issues. For example, a public sector organisation requested a focus on environmental and social sustainability, alongside consideration of the impacts of what is a potentially significant expansion upon other sectors. One Local Authority simply called for a greater emphasis on sustainability within the Draft National Marine Plan.

8.28 A number of respondents referred to a piece of work recently undertaken by Rivers and Fisheries Trusts of Scotland ( RAFTS) and the need for reference to this within the Draft NMP. Two Local Authorities commented:

"With reference to policy 'Aquaculture 8', local planners need further guidance on how to identify sensitive areas for wild salmonids. Should the methodology developed as part of the Marine Scotland funded recent RAFTS study be used?"

Additional policies

8.29 The final question in this chapter asked respondents whether there were any alternative planning policies they felt should be included in this chapter. A number of suggestions were made. Four respondents also referred to additional objectives; these are listed below:

Suggested additional objectives

  • An objective illustrating a clear intention to put salmon farming on a sustainable basis and to reconcile the industry's growth aspirations with the need to safeguard and restore wild fish populations in areas where these are significant or potentially significant and fragile. It is important that fish farming should be developed in harmony with the other interests around our coasts;
  • It is important to highlight that a fundamental objective for the Scottish aquaculture industry is currently absent from the list: namely to ensure that the industry farms fish and shellfish sustainably. The chapter currently focuses on the ambitious growth of the sector, without acknowledging the sector's prior responsibility to improve on its environmental record so that Scotland can achieve Good Ecological Status under both the Water Framework Directive and Marine Strategy Framework Directives. No reference is made to 'A Fresh Start - The Renewed Strategic Framework for Scottish Aquaculture', the principles and objectives of which are still relevant and should be incorporated into the NMP objectives, specifically: "Farmed fish and shellfish industries should act as a good neighbour by minimising risks to biodiversity and impact on the environment and other aquatic activities. Growth should be within the carrying capacity of the environment." Drawing on those conclusions, we recommend the inclusion of a specific, positive objective to guide policy that, if delivered, would help the industry prosper in the long-term and suggest the following objective: "Develop a robust regulatory framework to ensure the aquaculture industry farms fish and shellfish sustainably as defined by the three principles of sustainable development, each with equal weighting and that sectoral growth remains within the carrying capacity of the environment." (This could replace current objective 1);
  • The pre-consultation draft included an objective on a strategic approach to sea lice research and the application of its findings to spatial planning, which the draft NMP does not. This is a highly regrettable omission. We believe a proactive objective on sealice research is necessary to establish the conditions for a sustainable industry. The results of Middlemas et al. (2013) support a link between Atlantic salmon farms and sea lice burdens on sea trout in the west of Scotland, and therefore has important information and implications for marine spatial planning. Indeed it will be not be possible for the industry to demonstrate that it is operating within environmental limits until such results form part of the strategic planning process;
  • An objective on fish farm containment should be included. Norway's "Vision: Zero escapes" or NASCO's international goal for "100% of farmed fish to be retained in all production facilities" are useful reference points. Individual operators have 'zero escape' policies and a national objective would be a rational complement to recent legislative changes on containment;
  • An earlier draft of the document included the following objective: 'Reduce the environmental impact of aquaculture through good husbandry practice and bioremediation'. We believe that this must remain a key objective, especially in the light of the industries target (supported by Scottish Government) to significantly increase production.

Suggested additional policies

  • Regulators should work to create an efficient and transparent framework with clearly defined: remits, information requirements, and decision making processes;
  • It may be worth considering a policy on Area or Farm Management Agreements to encourage sustainable development with respect to disease control, fish welfare, etc.;
  • The Draft NMP policies on aquaculture could be augmented by policies that give guidance to decision makers on what issues they need not consider when coming to a determination. To assist in this, the NMP could use the work of Improved Systems for Licensing Aquaculture Developments ( ISLAD) and provide guidance on who does what in relation to the regulation of aquaculture development. Given that Scottish Planning Policy is being truncated so much, this sort of guidance is needed somewhere;
  • This chapter should include an additional policy to protect recreation and tourism from adverse effects of aquaculture development, for example: The location and scale of aquaculture development should avoid adverse effects on recreation and tourism;
  • There is no policy that states that developers and decision-making bodies should take account of relevant policy and guidance in marine and land use plans;
  • It would be highly appropriate for system carrying capacity (at the scale of a water body or loch system) to be considered as a key parameter for the development of plans for the expansion of aquaculture in Scotland. Such an approach would provide for policies and objectives within the NMP such as the diversification of the industry, and the development of Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture ( IMTA) and seaweed production, which could then coherently support sustainability of the industry;
  • Within the draft Scottish Seaweed Policy Statement and its SEA environmental report it is stated that the policy will sit alongside the NMP and will inform future Regional Marine Plans and Local Development Plans. However, there does not appear to be any specific reference to this policy within the Draft NMP. The apparently imminent expansion of the seaweed farming industry suggests it would be prudent to include a specific policy to ensure plan-led decision-making that links all respective planning and policy positions;
  • We suggest that an objective/policy is added which supports research, trials, technical innovations, and improvements to operational practices that aim to contribute to sustainable farming, growth, and to the global status of Scottish aquaculture;
  • We suggest that an objective/policy is added to Chapter 7 which supports the collaboration of aquaculture with other marine activities;
  • There is no policy with regards to Farm Management Areas or agreements, which were given statutory basis by the Aquaculture & Fisheries (Scotland) Act 2013. Given their role in planning and synchronising production in order to reduce and manage risks posed by infectious agents and parasites which can be present in the environment, in wild and farmed fish, and in other naturally occurring biota these are a critical element of marine planning for fish farms;
  • There are no specific policies relating to Farm Management Agreements/ Statements. Whilst it could be argued that these are specific legal requirements of the Aquaculture and Fisheries (Scotland) Act 2013, the same argument could also be put forward for the Scottish Technical Standard, which does have a specific policy;
  • We feel it is appropriate for inclusion in a high-level NMP, to encourage Regional Marine Plans to confer priority to existing fisheries when a negative interaction between the two sectors is likely to occur;
  • Aquaculture 3: We agree that there should continue to be a presumption against further marine finfish farm development on the north and east coasts to help protect migratory fish stocks. However with the fall in the wild salmon population we strongly believe that stocks of wild salmon and other migratory fish as well as rivers used by migratory fish on the west coast and islands should also be protected. We would like to see appropriate measures in place to protect these important stocks/rivers;
  • The potential for co-location of activities.

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