2. Licensing and Enforcement Recommendations
2.1 Robust conditions, based on an adaptive management approach, to safeguard wild salmonids should be contained within a licence rather than through planning consent;
2.2 The licence should contain conditions relating to:
- Requirement for undertaking, recording and reporting of a weekly sea louse count;
- Trigger levels for sea lice intervention action specific to the farm management area (to be reviewed subject to adaptive management);
- Requirement to monitor lice levels in the environment and assess impacts on wild salmonids;
- Requirement to report on the results of such monitoring;
- Requirement to contribute to research to understand the migratory distributions of wild salmonids within the West Coast and Northern Isles context;
- The actions that are required to be taken where monitoring demonstrates adverse impacts on wild salmonids and the timeframe in which demonstrable actions should be successfully delivered;
- Requirement for the farm to be party to a farm management agreement for the farm management area;
- Monitoring for the presence of escaped farmed fish from freshwater open pen farms;
- Requirement for 100% of farmed fish to be retained in all production facilities;
- Minimum technical standards for prevention of escapes of farmed fish;
- Requirement for an Escape Mitigation plan to be in place prior to stocking;
- Notification to all relevant authorities, including to the local DSFB, of escapes or suspected escapes to be made within 24 hours of knowledge of the incident;
- Requirement for recording and reporting of escapes of farmed fish; and,
- Requirement to undertake an end of farm cycle review which informs the next production cycle process.
2.3 Scottish Ministers should direct all relevant statutory bodies to discharge their duties such that they fully take into account the health and welfare of wild salmonids and of farmed fish.
2.4 As a priority, the consenting of new developments should be managed within an adaptive spatial planning model which is risk based, of suitable resolution, underpinned by best available scientific evidence, and takes into account the cumulative effect of management practices of existing developments and impacts on wild salmonid fish;
2.5 The SIWG recommends that the Technical Working Group should ensure that these principles are embedded in the spatial planning framework for sea lice which is due for public consultation;
2.6 An enforcement policy should be published, informed by existing controls, to include specific penalties and sanctions for breaching conditions but incorporating some flexibility to respond to specific local conditions;
2.7 Appropriate fines, proportionate to the incident and scale of the escape, should apply to escapes of fish;
2.8 Where direct costs or nuisance resulting from an escape of farmed fish can be demonstrated there should be a legal requirement on the farm operator to fully compensate those costs;
2.9 Enforcement sanctions relating to sea lice and escapes, including the use of fixed and variable monetary penalties, should have a mechanism to allow monies to be invested into wild salmonid conservation work. Alternatively, this could be informed by the approach taken in Norway through OURO.
Scottish Government Response to Section 2: Licensing and Enforcement Recommendations
We agree that robust conditions, based on an adaptive management approach, to safeguard wild salmonids should be contained within a licence rather than through planning consent and that the relevant licence conditions should apply to existing, as well as new, fish farms.
We agree that, as a priority, the consenting of new developments should be managed through the application of an adaptive spatially-based risk assessment tool, underpinned by the best scientific evidence available and which takes into account the cumulative effect of management practices of existing developments and potential impacts on wild salmon.
SEPA will shortly consult on an adaptive spatially-based risk assessment framework which will be applied through the Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Regulations 2011 [See Response to Section 1; Wild/farmed Salmonid Interactions Recommendations].
The Scottish Government and Scottish Green Party shared policy programme commits us to strengthening controls on sea lice, wrasse and escapes in the course of 2021/22.
Escaped farmed fish are in no one's interest. Escaped fish can impact wild salmon populations, result in production loss, economic loss and are detrimental to farmed fish health and welfare.
The UK is a signatory of the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organisation's 'Williamsburg resolution'. Scottish Ministers are committed to the implementation of this international obligation, minimising the escape of farmed fish and supporting farmers to achieve a goal of 100% containment in production facilities. We are all working together towards this collective aim and recognise the challenges faced by fish farms which can lead to escapes including, but not limited to, extreme weather events and seals.
We commit to further strengthening the regulatory framework which applies to containment and escapes. We will take forward a programme of work to consider how best to achieve this, including how to introduce proportionate penalties for fish farm escapes with the ultimate aim of ring-fencing or redistributing this money to support wild salmonid conservation and research.
Currently, Scottish finfish farms are required to have satisfactory measures in place for the containment of fish as required by the Aquaculture and Fisheries (Scotland) Act 2007 enforced by Scottish Government's Fish Health Inspectorate. This current policy framework already achieves some of the SIWG aims, including reporting, recording and escape and containment plans.
We recently published the Aquaculture Code of Practice: Containment of and Prevention of Escape of Fish on Fish Farms which aims to address the impact of marine mammal interactions upon containment and escape of fish at fish farms.
Together with the fish farming sector we are revising the Technical Standard for Scottish Finfish Aquaculture (published 2015) which will take account of climate change and higher energy sites to further improve containment at Scottish fish farm sites. We will publish the updated Technical Standard for Scottish Finfish Aquaculture by the end of the year.
We note SIWG calls for one lead body to take responsibility for interactions and that conditions and enforcement should be achieved through a licensing regime. We will consider this in forming our policy options, including how the Technical Standard for Scottish Finfish Aquaculture would fit within or alongside any enforcement regime.
We will use learning from what works well in other aquaculture jurisdictions and consider how fish farm operators can take financial responsibility for the impact of escapes in a way that is fair and proportionate.
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