Information

Seaweed Policy Statement Consultation Analysis Report 2014

Analysis of the responses received from the Draft Seaweed Policy Statement Consultation 2013.


5 Section 1: Draft Seaweed Policy Statement (SPS)

This section sets out the quantitative analysis of responses to the draft Seaweed Policy Statement, and a summary of the comments made and issues raised by respondents (these are summarised and discussed under the relevant questions). Summaries of the findings are presented in boxes at the end of the discussion on each consultation question.

5.1 Overview

5.1.1 This section set out the draft SPS and sought views on nine policies on:

  • Stand-alone commercial seaweed cultivation; and
  • Commercial seaweed cultivation within IMTA systems.

5.1.2 Views were also sought on the proposed scales for the development of the seaweed cultivation industry: shellfish (small), medium and extensive scale.

5.2 Question 1: Do you agree with policies 1 - 6?

5.2.1 The majority of respondents across the range of sectors agreed, or agreed in principle, with the proposed policies. These were viewed by some as "sensible, proportionate or adequate"; another respondent felt that the approaches outlined in the six policies would provide an "adequately robust framework" to support the development of a seaweed farming industry while ensuring the protection of consumers, the environment and other marine users. A few respondents did not agree. One considered that, in the absence of policies relating to landscape/seascape, or potential impacts on sensitive benthic habitats, species or designated areas, Policies 1 - 6 did not provide an appropriate guide for shellfish-scale seaweed cultivation. One respondent, while agreeing in principle, felt that there were further considerations which should be taken into account to ensure that these policies achieve the desired aims, and provided these considerations in their response.

5.2.2 Several respondents considered that the policies in the National Marine Plan (and forthcoming Regional Marine Plans) should apply to seaweed cultivation and harvesting, and that the SPS should make reference to these plans and policies. One respondent, from the fishing industry, considered that this would ensure wider stakeholder engagement and consultation. Another public body respondent also suggested that the SPS should refer to the need for such development to accord with these plans.

5.2.3 One respondent also considered that, as set out, the policies align with those that require consideration when determining applications for other forms of aquaculture. Another agreed that the policies could be used for determining applications for consent or for providing good guidance to developers. Some public body respondents were critical of the wording of the policies and considered, for example, that "in principle" statements do not provide certainty either for those assessing applications or for prospective developers. Another respondent also welcomed the commitment that the establishment of seaweed production would not be used as a sole driver for improvements to water quality or to impose additional requirements on existing operators of authorised activities.

5.2.4 Some respondents felt that there had been little consultation out with the aquaculture sector during the development of the draft SPS, for example, with fishing interests, yachting organisations and the tourism sector. Fishing industry respondents raised concerns regarding the detrimental effect on other users, in particular inshore fishing activities, including the cumulative impact of new and additional developments in the marine environment and resultant impacts on navigation and vessel transit to and from fishing grounds. They felt that their interests had not been considered and assurances were sought that seaweed cultivation would not affect their opportunity to make a living from the sea.

5.2.5 Of those who did not support the draft SPS, one respondent stated their strong opposition on the basis that it presumes that seaweed will be grown on ropes. They noted that other methods such as vertical and horizontal net systems are being trialled, and had concerns that the development of farms based on such systems may be hindered or blocked, as they cannot be fitted into any size category defined in the policies.

5.2.6 Another respondent had concerns about seaweed cultivation generally and felt that, while small-scale seaweed cultivation under strict regulatory control may be feasible, medium and large-scale cultivation (especially IMTA) would have significant adverse environmental effects and affect other marine users dependent on environmental quality. Another respondent voiced their concern that the proposed policies may have a detrimental impact on the habitat of marine birds, through their support for the development of seaweed farms.

5.2.7 Concerns were also raised about the definition of size/scale. One respondent felt that, even with potentially smaller seaweed farms, Policies 1 - 9 were appropriate. Others disagreed and felt that they could not respond fully on the basis of the size/scale definitions set out in the Consultation Document. One respondent felt that Policies 2 - 6 would also be relevant to medium-scale seaweed cultivation.

Views on specific policies

5.3 Question 1a - Do you agree with policy 1?

Policy 1: In principle, the Scottish Government is supportive of shellfish scale seaweed cultivation, subject to regulatory consideration.

Sector Yes No Not answered
1. Seaweed Industry 4
2. Aquaculture Industry 2
3. Fishing and Aquaculture Industry 1
4. Fishing Industry 1 4
5. Cultural Heritage/Archaeological 1 1
6. Recreational Sector 1
7. Voluntary Sector 1
8. Academic Sector 3
9. Public Body 8 2 2
10. Farming and Land Use 1
11. Individual 1 1
12. Withheld 2
Overall 22 5 9

5.3.1 Twenty-two respondents supported this policy, or supported it in principle, primarily the public bodies and the seaweed industry. The five respondents who did not support the policy came from four different sectors.

5.3.2 Several respondents considered that "shellfish scale" seaweed cultivation has the potential for significant environmental effects, depending on where it is located, and suggested that this should be reflected in the wording of policy 1.

5.3.3 Some of the respondents who agreed with the policy added provisos; for example, that care must be taken not to over-exploit resources or that consenting should be through planning permission, by bringing the culture of seaweed (marine plants) within the meaning of development in the planning acts.

5.3.4 Of the respondents who did not support this policy, one felt that it should be made clear whether the Scottish Government intend seaweed cultivation and harvesting to be addressed in Local Development Plans or Regional Marine Plans; if the former, then the wording of the policy should be changed to reflect that development would only be supported if it accorded with the development plan. Another public body respondent did not feel that the caveat of "subject to regulatory consideration" is appropriate because this process applies to all development proposals.

5.3.5 Views on the consenting process are discussed under question 6.

Policy 1 Summary:

  • The majority of respondents supported this policy, with some provisos.
  • Some would support the policy only if consenting was through town and country planning.
  • Several considered that "shellfish scale" seaweed cultivation has the potential for significant environmental effects, depending on where it is located, and wanted a reference to this included in policy 1.

5.4 Question 1b - Do you agree with policy 2?

Policy 2: Only species native to the area where the seaweed cultivation will take place should be cultivated, to minimise risk from non-native species.

5.4.1 Two questions in the consultation document sought views on policy 2, one regarding general agreement (question 1b) and one on local provenance (question 2). A combined analysis of the responses to these two questions has been undertaken and the findings are presented below.

Sector Yes No Not answered
1. Seaweed Industry 4
2. Aquaculture Industry 2
3. Fishing and Aquaculture Industry 1
4. Fishing Industry 1 4
5. Cultural Heritage/Archaeological 1 1
6. Recreational Sector 1
7. Voluntary Sector 1
8. Academic Sector 3
9. Public Body 9 1 2
10. Farming and Land Use 1
11. Individual 1 1
12. Withheld 1 1
Overall 24 2 10

5.4.2 The majority of respondents (24) answering the question supported this policy, with respondents from a range of sectors. Most support was received from public bodies and seaweed industry respondents. The three respondents who did not support the policy all came from different sectors.

5.5 Question 2: Should policy 2 require local provenance, i.e., stock must originate from the water body the seaweed is to be grown in?

Policy 2: Only species native to the area where the seaweed cultivation will take place should be cultivated, to minimise risk from non-native species.

Sector Yes No Not answered
1. Seaweed Industry 2 2
2. Aquaculture Industry 1 1
3. Fishing and Aquaculture Industry 1
4. Fishing Industry 2 3
5. Cultural Heritage/Archaeological 1 1
6. Recreational Sector 1
7. Voluntary Sector 1
8. Academic Sector 3
9. Public Body 8 1 3
10. Farming and Land Use 1
11. Individual 1 1
12. Withheld 1 1
Overall 20 5 11

5.5.1 This policy was supported by most of the respondents (20) who answered the question. Opposition was expressed by five respondents.

General comments

5.5.2 Respondents in support of the policy commented that it is essential to minimise the risk of introducing invasive non-native species, both now and in the future, and that this should be a high priority (several noted that non-native invasive marine species are already occurring, e.g. in Orkney). The key reasons cited were minimising the risk of species displacement and the risk of disease, and preserving the genetic integrity of a local population. Support was also expressed from a commercial perspective, where one respondent considered that this policy is in the interest of those using a combination of cultivation and wild harvest where the native wild population is key. Protection of Scottish species is also important where brand principles are concerned e.g. standards of excellence, Scottish premium product, etc.

5.5.3 Several respondents referred to the legislation on non-native species. One respondent considered that the development of the SPS should pay attention to the existing legislation; they also commented that the Code of Practice on Non-Native Species "does not clearly deal with the cultivation of plants in the sea". Another noted that legislation on non-native species does allow for exemption on certain sites, e.g. on agricultural farms where the cultivation and harvest of non-native species provides huge benefit. If applied to seaweed cultivation, this would have to be weighed against the long-term management of the farm and the possibility of introducing seaweed species that may become invasive or inadvertently introducing associated species or diseases.

5.5.4 One individual respondent felt that there may be considerable commercial pressure (and a business opportunity) to import stocks to meet overseas demand for seaweed, which would require the use of non-native (and thus potentially invasive) species. They felt that measures will be needed in any legislation to prevent the importation and growing of alien species.

5.5.5 Those who did not support this policy felt that it was overly restrictive. One respondent stated that the policy would make seaweed hatchery production and grow-out unfeasible, as it would require hatcheries to maintain cultures of seaweeds from hundreds of potential farm locations. Another was of the view that this could potentially shrink the gene pool within a population, and hence reduce the resilience of a species, putting it at risk in the face of climate change. One respondent also noted that, in the future, the seaweed cultivation industry would likely wish to use species that have been selectively bred for specific traits ( e.g. faster growth, pest resistance, etc.), and that policy 2 would preclude this, as these would be genetically different from local stocks.

5.5.6 There was a clear view from those who opposed the policy that, unless there is clear scientific evidence that there are significant genetic differences between seaweeds of the same species in different geographic locations in Scotland, or that any genetic differences that do exist would be likely to have an adverse effect on the local seaweed stocks, this restriction is unnecessary. They felt that it is important not to constrain the industry with legislative barriers. Indeed, one of the supporters of the policy noted the practical limitations involved in collecting sufficient quantities of spore locally to permit this industry to develop commercially.

Clarification/definition of terms

5.5.7 A key request was for clarification of the policy's wording. Respondents sought more information on the geographical extent of "the area" and what was meant by "native to the area", e.g. does the term "area" refer to the coastline of Scotland or to a smaller scale? Similarly, several requested a definition of water body for use in interpreting the policy, for example, would this mean a single sea loch, defined geographic regions around Scotland, or UK waters? Several respondents felt unable to answer without this information.

5.5.8 Several respondents made suggestions about the policy's wording, or what the policy should include. For example, one respondent suggested use of the term 'nearby' provenance, as it is slightly physically broader than 'local'. Others suggested that the policy wording could be clarified to include "within the same waterbody" or that species should be grown only in locations where that species is also naturally found in the same body of water or, at the very least, only within their native range.

5.5.9 Also of relevance is the issue of species distribution. One respondent noted that they currently harvest/grow seaweed of the same species on both the east and west coasts of Scotland. Another noted that the species being considered for cultivation occur across the whole of Europe, and recommended that seaweeds for cultivation should be sourced from UK waters. The comment was made that use of the term 'local' depends on the specific seaweed: some seaweeds have a small spatial distribution, others have global distributions.

5.5.10 Along the same lines, one respondent suggested that the wording of the policy should be amended to read "only species native to the area where the seaweed cultivation will take place should be cultivated, to minimise the risk from non-native species. Stock must either originate from the water body the seaweed is to be grown in, or have a demonstrated inability to reproduce in order to avoid erosion of local genetic diversity."

5.5.11 One respondent emphasised that the use of non-local stock may also increase the risk of non-native species being introduced, either as a deliberate result of developing a farm or accidentally through being introduced along with the species cultivated when the farm is stocked. For these reasons stock of as local a provenance as possible, and ideally from within the same water body, should be used in the development of seaweed farms.

Flexibility/exceptions

5.5.12 It was suggested that flexibility is retained in the policy to allow use of "native" or "nearby" stock, not necessarily of immediately local provenance, to improve cultivation prospects with no adverse effects on local stock or the environment.

5.5.13 One respondent noted that there may be situations where improvements in seaweed yields are to be gained from introduced species being used and that this would need to be subject to future research and/or case by case assessment ( e.g. use an approved screening process for other species, authenticated stock, known and approved sources, etc.).

5.5.14 One respondent considered that, in some circumstances where types of seaweed historically occurring in an area have disappeared, controlled reintroduction using stocks from another area should not be precluded if considered appropriate to improve biodiversity (but that such introductions should be accompanied by appropriate hygiene and other controls etc. as well as scientific monitoring, prior to and during cultivation, to make certain that there are no adverse environmental or other impacts).

Climate change

5.5.15 The comment was made that this policy may need to remain flexible in light of the way that climate change may affect the distribution of seaweeds, citing their high sensitivity to temperature change, and that it may need to be reviewed if the native range of a species changes in response to climate change, such that this species moves into previously uninhabited areas (thereby becoming invasive).

Research

5.5.16 The need for evidence and for further work to be undertaken in this area was expressed, both by those who did and did not support this policy. It was proposed that further work is needed to: study the population genetics of local seaweed populations to confirm the level of diversity in both Scottish and UK waters (including whether there is significant genetic difference between the species that occur on both the east and west coasts of Scotland); establish the actual significance of the introduction of non-locally provenanced seaweed and any subsequent impact on genetic integrity; and to determine factors like spore dispersal in the natural environment. It was considered that, until such work has been undertaken, the resolution of uncertainties is unlikely to be possible.

Implementation

5.5.17 Guidance was requested as to how cultivators should assess whether a species is native or non-native. One respondent asked how, in practice, this policy would be enforced. Another suggested use of an invasive species risk management plan.

5.5.18 Another, from the seaweed industry, noted that a non-native species may naturally colonise a seaweed farm, and requested that procedures be put in place so that it can be demonstrated that, where this has occurred, it has been a natural event and not through intentional action on the part of the cultivator.

Policy 2 summary:

  • The majority of respondents supported requirements for native and local provenance, both for commercial (preserving the Scottish "brand") and environmental reasons (minimising the risk of species displacement and/or disease; preserving local genetic integrity). Opponents felt it was overly restrictive and would make production activities unfeasible now and in the future.
  • Respondents requested clarification of the terms used in the wording of the policy. Some wanted the policy to focus on native provenance only, to introduce some flexibility into sourcing of seaweeds. Others noted that flexibility of implementation may be required in light of future climate change.
  • Many called for further research into this area.
  • Requests were made for guidance and for the policy to be applied to all aquaculture sectors.

5.6 Question 1c - Do you agree with policy 3?

Policy 3: Where seaweed is grown for human consumption, cultivators could site farms away from sewage outfalls and other potential sources of pollution.

Sector Yes No Not answered
1. Seaweed Industry 4
2. Aquaculture Industry 2
3. Fishing and Aquaculture Industry 1
4. Fishing Industry 5
5. Cultural Heritage/Archaeological 1 1
6. Recreational Sector 1
7. Voluntary Sector 1
8. Academic Sector 3
9. Public Body 9 2 1
10. Farming and Land Use 1
11. Individual 1 1
12. Withheld 2
Overall 24 3 9

5.6.1 The majority of respondents (24) supported this policy. Public bodies, the seaweed industry and the academic sector were the main supporters. Three organisations did not support this policy - two public bodies and one from the voluntary sector. Several respondents noted that siting seaweed farms close to outfalls could be of benefit to ambient water quality.

5.6.2 Many of the respondents, both for and against, felt that the current wording was unclear and should be strengthened. For example, respondents requested that the word "could" be replaced by "should" or "must" or that the policy be rephrased to "farms must be located away from sewage outfalls and other sources of pollution". Others questioned how "away from" would be defined, noting that this could be interpreted in many different ways when considering distance from source, for example, taking oceanographic currents, prevailing winds etc. into account. Another respondent felt that the answer to this policy question depends on the extent to which seaweeds accumulate, or harbour, harmful bacteria, viruses, heavy metals etc. that may be present in such discharges.

5.6.3 One respondent from the academic sector asked if the use of the seaweed will be covered in the consent to ensure that it is fit for human consumption. Other suggestions included that: standards for human food seaweed need to be implemented, based on existing standards for wild harvested seaweed; water quality be assessed at all sites; and consideration is given to the designation of seaweed growing waters (for human consumption), similar to what is presently in place for shellfish. Undertaking a collaborative approach to information sharing, between the Foods Standards Agency ( FSA) in Scotland, SEPA and Scottish Water, was suggested as a useful means for the seaweed sector to identify sites for seaweed cultivation for human consumption, such as that proposed in the consultation "Integrated approach to shellfish waters - next steps". Another respondent was of the view that human health considerations were not a matter for development consent, and that such issues should be dealt with through the harvesting area process, as is currently done for shellfish.

5.6.4 Financial implications were also discussed. A respondent from the seaweed harvesting industry reiterated that, for them, quality of the product was of upmost importance and that any potential contamination is avoided at all cost. However, they felt that further research is needed into testing criteria for seaweed for human consumption to prevent excessive testing constraints which could potentially cripple small to medium enterprises. It was also noted by another that costs may influence the siting of development, for example, there would presumably be an advantage to be a set distance away from a known discharge so as to reduce the need for expensive sampling and testing regimes.

Policy 3 summary:

  • The majority of respondents supported the policy of siting seaweed farms away from pollution sources. Several, however, noted the potential benefits to water quality of siting farms close to outfalls.
  • Many asked for clarification and strengthening of the wording, e.g. from "could" to "should".
  • Several respondents raised issues around human consumption, including establishing standards, assessing water quality, and designating seaweed growing waters. The financial implications of such measures were also raised.
  • Several respondents, particularly those from the water industry, considered that seaweed for human consumption should be grown in designated shellfish waters.

5.7 Question 1d - Do you agree with policy 4?

Policy 4: Equipment used in seaweed cultivation should be fit for purpose to prevent damage from adverse weather conditions.

Sector Yes No Not Answered
1. Seaweed Industry 4
2. Aquaculture Industry 2
3. Fishing and Aquaculture Industry 1
4. Fishing Industry 1 4
5. Cultural Heritage/Archaeological 1 1
6. Recreational Sector 1
7. Voluntary Sector 1
8. Academic Sector 3
9. Public Body 10 1 1
10. Farming and Land Use 1
11. Individual 1 1
12. Withheld 2
Overall 25 3 8

5.7.1 This was supported across the range of sectors, with 25 respondents agreeing with the policy. Only three respondents were opposed.

5.7.2 Suggestions for changes to its wording were made by respondents who both agreed and disagreed with policy 4. For example, it was suggested that the wording "should be fit for purpose" be changed to "should be demonstrably fit for the proposed location and the prevailing conditions" or "should be fit for purpose in relation to the surrounding environmental conditions, in order to prevent impacts on safe navigation and other interests".

5.7.3 Other respondents felt that there should be some clarification and definition of the term "damage", for example, does this relate solely to damage to the farm equipment or also to subsequent impacts on navigation or other interests? It was also noted that built structures along the coastline, as well as other marine structures, could be damaged by equipment. A few respondents who did not support the policy felt that the wider environmental impacts of farms breaking up had not been considered. One noted, for example, that such "damage" could include damage from the spread of seaweed.

5.7.4 Other views were that, while equipment must conform to the policy, it should also be suitable for harvesting sustainably and safely without it becoming too much of a cost burden on industry, thereby discouraging new entrants to the market.

5.7.5 One respondent felt that it was unclear what criteria the equipment would be assessed against, for example against a technical standard or on a site-by-site basis. Another considered that the policy should apply to all scales of cultivation, and that industry-specific guidelines should be developed, taking into account other countries' experience.

5.7.6 It was also suggested that the policy should include provisions to ensure: that equipment is placed in the specific position applied for; that maintenance is undertaken; and that consideration of decommissioning and restoration be part of the consenting process.

Policy 4 summary:

  • The majority of respondents agreed that seaweed farming equipment should be fit for purpose to prevent damage from adverse weather conditions.
  • Changes to wording were suggested for clarification, e.g. to "fit for purpose".
  • It was suggested that industry-specific guidelines be prepared and that these should be proportionate, given the cost implications.

5.8 Question 1e - Do you agree with policy 5?

Policy 5: Other marine users and activities should be considered in the siting of farms.

Sector Yes No Not Answered
1. Seaweed Industry 3 1
2. Aquaculture Industry 2
3. Fishing and Aquaculture Industry 1
4. Fishing Industry 1 1 3
5. Cultural Heritage/Archaeological 2
6. Recreational Sector 1
7. Voluntary Sector 1
8. Academic Sector 3
9. Public Body 11 1
10. Farming and Land Use 2
11. Individual 1 1
12. Withheld 2
Overall 29 2 6

5.8.1 This policy was supported by 29 respondents across the range of sectors, including nearly all of the public bodies; only two were opposed. One respondent felt that this approach is already used when determining applications for planning permission, but was of the view that it is not used as readily in determining marine licence applications.

5.8.2 Many of the respondents who supported the policy felt that it could benefit from being strengthened and through clarification of the wording, particularly "other marine users" and how they will be "considered". In particular, respondents felt that "other marine users and activities" should include fishing interests, other coastal users and activities, Scottish Water infrastructure and socio-economic impacts; some also considered that the term should include environmental and wider community stakeholders as well as traditional interests. Several suggested that the wording of the policy be amended to read "other marine and coastal users and activities".

5.8.3 In terms of strengthening the policy, one respondent suggested that there should be an obligation on developers to consult other marine users, rather than just consider them, which is open to interpretation. Several respondents, from a range of sectors, felt that consideration should be given to expanding this policy to ensure no development took place where there were navigational safety issues. Several also raised concerns about potential displacement of the fishing industry, with consequent socio-economic impacts; one suggested that the policy should be widened to include a presumption against development in the same area as a wild fishery or development that could displace the "legitimate activity and legally held right of fishermen to fish".

5.8.4 Supporters of the policy felt that guidance would be required to assist in the assessment of potential impacts on other marine users. A few wanted the policy and/or the requested guidance to be spatial in nature.

5.8.5 Of those who did not support this policy, one considered that seaweed cultivation would have a very low impact on other users.

Policy 5 summary:

  • The majority of respondents agreed that other marine users and activities should be considered in the siting of seaweed farms. Opponents felt that seaweed cultivation would have a low impact on other users.
  • Many of the respondents felt that the wording should be strengthened and clarified, particularly the definition of "other marine users" and how they will be "considered".
  • Specific concerns were raised about displacement and effects on navigation.
  • Guidance to assist in implementation was requested.

5.9 Question 1f - Do you agree with Policy 6?

Policy 6: Shellfish scale farming is not spatially limited, and may be located anywhere in Scotland with appropriate local conditions, and with due regard to the marine environment.

Sector Yes No Not answered
1. Seaweed Industry 4
2. Aquaculture Industry 2
3. Fishing and Aquaculture Industry 1
4. Fishing Industry 1 4
5. Cultural Heritage/Archaeological 2
6. Recreational Sector 1
7. Voluntary Sector 1
8. Academic Sector 3
9. Public Body 7 3 2
10. Farming and Land Use 1
11. Individual 1 1
12. Withheld 2
Overall 23 5 8

5.9.1 The majority of respondents (23), across the broad range of sectors, supported this policy. Five were opposed, three from public bodies.

5.9.2 Many of those who supported the policy requested clarification of the wording and suggested some changes. The main issues arose around the meaning of "appropriate local conditions" and "with due regard to the marine environment". Points made in response to policy 5 were reiterated, in that consideration of location should include consideration of other marine and coastal users and activities, navigational safety issues and socio-economic impacts. Several respondents felt that consideration of ambient water quality would be a key consideration in defining "appropriate local conditions"; several felt that "appropriate local conditions" should be limited to shellfish growing waters.

5.9.3 Concern was raised by one public body respondent that the policy did not contain sufficient detail to ensure that all the "regional" issues identified by the Strategic Environmental Assessment ( SEA) would be given sufficient consideration by future consenting regimes. They, and others, suggested that the effectiveness of this policy would be improved by: including a requirement to consider environmental impacts; identifying environmental assessment objectives; highlighting the need to assess indirect impacts ( e.g. on marine birds and their habitats) and cumulative effects; and providing a more detailed explanation of the specific aspects of the marine environment that should be given "due regard" in determining suitable location (as set out in the SEA Environmental Report).

5.9.4 Of the respondents who did not support this policy, one respondent felt that there are already spatial limits on seaweed cultivation, including the presumption against finfish aquaculture on the north and east coasts of Scotland (policy 9) and the limited number of protected shellfish waters on these same coasts. A public body felt that the policy did not make sense and that it did not add anything to the policy framework. They also questioned why no reference was made to relevant National Marine Plan policies or future Regional Marine Plan policies. Another respondent felt that the precautionary approach was being ignored, and that cultivation of seaweed would result in a change to ecosystem balance such that resulting ecosystem changes could seriously affect marine mobile species. They envisaged that seaweed would spread beyond the farm, to the detriment of others who rely on healthy functioning marine ecosystems ( e.g. fishermen or tourists, amongst others) and felt that these factors should be included when considering the "economic" case for such developments.

5.9.5 One respondent noted that "it cannot be assumed that sites with 'appropriate local conditions' may be located anywhere in Scotland", until further information is available on what types of seaweed are to be cultivated, their end use, and the methods of production (views on the example of shellfish scale set out by the draft SPS are captured under question 5).

5.9.6 One respondent considered that a high number of small-scale seaweed farms could have similar, or greater, impacts to those from a large-scale farm and wanted to know what controls would be put in place in this regard.

Policy 6 summary:

  • The majority of respondents agreed that shellfish-scale farming may be located anywhere in Scotland with appropriate local conditions, and with due regard to the marine environment.
  • Clarification of definitions was requested, accompanied by suggestions, particularly around "appropriate local conditions" and "due regard".
  • Some wanted to see more detail, e.g. on potential environmental effects and their assessment and on cumulative effects. e.g. of high numbers of farms.
  • Some opponents considered that there are already spatial limits on seaweed cultivation, others that the precautionary approach should be employed.

5.10 Question 3: Do you agree with policy 7?

Policy 7 - In principle, the Scottish Government is also supportive of medium scale development, subject to regulatory consideration. Applications for such seaweed farms should demonstrate that mitigation measures have been considered to prevent adverse environmental impacts, and how these will be delivered.

Sector Yes No Not Answered
1. Seaweed Industry 3 1
2. Aquaculture Industry 2
3. Fishing and Aquaculture Industry 1
4. Fishing Industry 1 1 3
5. Cultural Heritage/Archaeological 1 1
6. Recreational Sector 1
7. Voluntary Sector 1
8. Academic Sector 3
9. Public Body 9 2 1
10. Farming and Land Use 1
11. Individual 1 1
12. Withheld 1 1
Overall 24 6 6

5.10.1 Twenty-four respondents supported this policy, or supported it in principle. These were mainly from public bodies, the academic sector and the seaweed industry. The remaining sectors were mostly in broad agreement. Six respondents, from five different sectors, were opposed. Several respondents had comments about development size/scale and consenting, and these are discussed under Questions 5 and 6, respectively.

5.10.2 Many respondents added provisos to this support. A key proviso was that, as well as environmental impacts, social and economic sustainability must be considered, as well as other stakeholders, particularly in light of concerns raised about existing spatial pressures in the coastal and marine environment. Concerns were raised by the fishing and recreational sectors about the potential for displacement of recreational and fishing vessels, and the consequent environmental effects of the latter. Other provisos included that requirements for mitigation measures be proportionate and supported by guidance; developers must apply for a Marine Licence so that sites are assessed for navigational safety; and that issues of disturbance and deterrence of seabirds must be coherently addressed. One respondent also felt that the policy should provide guidance on the potential adverse environmental effects identified in the SEA.

5.10.3 The wording of the policy was considered by many. One respondent felt that the policy was not well worded and that it could be amended to support this scale of development, subject to it being consistent with relevant National and Regional Marine Plan policies. Several felt that the policy wording should be changed to require that environmental information be submitted alongside the application for consent, to show how the proposed development would be managed to ensure no significant environmental impact.

5.10.4 The topic of mitigation was also discussed. A suggestion was made to use the term "safeguards" rather than "mitigation", as this respondent considered mitigation to be reduction of harm rather than prevention. One respondent proposed that the wording of the policy should be amended from "that mitigation measures have been considered to prevent …" to read "… that mitigation measures have been identified to prevent". These measures could then be required to accompany any application for consent, making the assessment of the proposal more meaningful. One public body respondent noted that mitigation measures should only have to be considered if the development is likely to give rise to negative impacts; if they are not sufficient to overcome such negative impacts, then refusal of the application would be warranted. It was also suggested that the SPS should include the necessary mitigation measures, and that these should be backed up by evidence (peer reviewed) to ensure that they are effective.

5.10.5 One respondent felt, however, that lack of research on the environmental impact of seaweed cultivation meant that it would be impossible for a planning application to present an effective mitigation strategy for all impacts, as they are not yet understood. Continued research was also suggested by another, to ensure that developments are not creating adverse environmental effects, whilst another respondent noted that it will only be as the scale of farming increases that evidence of any impacts, whether positive or negative, will be identified.

5.10.6 This respondent recommended that a deploy and monitor approach be utilised, with initial baseline data taken for a site and samples taken at various time points during deployment to monitor any environmental impacts, noting that this is currently being undertaken, at a small scale, on several projects.

5.10.7 A few respondents supportive of this policy felt that it should also apply to shell-fish scale developments, given the potential for this scale to have significant environmental effects, particularly in respect of designated sites, Protected Marine Features, sensitive habitats/species, and other users and communities. It was also felt that scale alone will not necessarily be an appropriate measure of the significant impacts, as the significance of impacts will also be linked to the specific site location.

5.10.8 A few respondents from a range of sectors (including public bodies, the academic sector and the fishing industry, amongst others) suggested that consideration be given to requiring Environmental Impact Assessment ( EIA) of this scale of seaweed cultivation. It was felt that this would provide evidence for mitigation of potential environmental and social impacts, including those on the benthos, water column and interactions with other marine organisms as well as implications for fisheries and space, visual/other coastal impacts etc. Another respondent felt that larger "shellfish scale" developments and shellfish farms should also be included in such requirements.

Policy 7 summary:

  • The majority of respondents supported medium-scale seaweed cultivation. Many added provisos, e.g. that, as well as environmental impacts, social and economic sustainability and other stakeholders must be considered.
  • Suggestions for clarification of the wording were made, particularly relating to definitions of terms used. Respondents also asked for more detail to be provided, e.g. a description of the necessary mitigation measures. Approaches to mitigation were also discussed, with useful suggestions.
  • Respondents also called for research into the environmental effects of seaweed cultivation, and into the potential measures for mitigation of these effects.
  • Several felt that this policy should also apply to shellfish-scale developments.

5.11 Question 4: Do you agree with policies 8 and 9?

Policy 8 - The Scottish Government is supportive of IMTA.

Policy 9 - Where seaweed is grown in IMTA alongside finfish, it is spatially limited to the West Coast of Scotland, the Western Isles, Shetland and Orkney. This is due to the continued presumption against the further marine finfish developments on the north and east coasts, as detailed in the Scottish Planning Policy document and the forthcoming National Marine Plan.

Sector Yes No Not Answered
1. Seaweed Industry 3 1
2. Aquaculture Industry 2
3. Fishing and Aquaculture Industry 1
4. Fishing Industry 1 1 3
5. Cultural Heritage/Archaeological 1 1
6. Recreational Sector 1
7. Voluntary Sector 1
8. Academic Sector 2 1
9. Public Body 9 2 1
10. Farming and Land Use 1
11. Individual 1 1
12. Withheld 1 1
Overall 21 8 7

5.11.1 Twenty-one respondents, across the range of sectors (including most of the public bodies), supported these policies. They were not supported by eight respondents, also across the range of sectors.

General/overarching views

5.11.2 Nine of the twelve sectors broadly supported these policies. Some respondents added provisos to this support. For example, several felt that further research into IMTA was required on, for example, the tonnage of shellfish and/or seaweed required to mitigate environmental effects from a salmon farm ( e.g. 1500-tonne production level); the spatial requirements of IMTA; whether IMTA from "closed" tank- and land-based systems could be successfully transferred to the marine environment; and the environmental and economic implications of IMTA. Most of the respondents who opposed the policies did so because they do not agree with the concept of IMTA. The issues discussed in the following paragraphs were raised by both supporters and opponents of the IMTA policies.

5.11.3 Biological carrying capacity was an issue for several respondents. One was concerned, for example, that the introduction of shellfish at a salmon farm to mitigate environmental impacts could result in the biological carrying capacity of the water body being exceeded, which would have adverse effects on existing shellfish farms by reducing growth and production overall, with consequent economic impacts. Several were concerned that IMTA would be used to support intensified stocking of finfish or to retain current production capacity at over-stocked locations. One respondent considered that permissions granted for IMTA should only be awarded to concerns with 'serious intent and those with a genuine desire to succeed in this particular area of activity'.

5.11.4 Many respondents supported the principle of nutrient uptake through IMTA. One respondent felt that the inclusion of seaweed cultivation alongside finfish farming should be mandatory. However, several respondents questioned whether IMTA could achieve its stated objectives. One felt that there is no real means of containing nutrients and that the use of "integrated" is therefore inappropriate. Several questioned whether nutrient uptake would occur, particularly in the open sea. One was concerned that, for nutrient uptake to be effective, separation distances would have to be quite small, which would result in IMTA species being exposed to pesticides, residual medicines, etc. from finfish farms. Another queried how nutrient uptake would be monitored.

5.11.5 Several respondents were concerned that IMTA would act as a source of diffuse pollution, for example by increasing the likelihood of pathogens and diseases developing and spreading into natural populations of marine organisms. One considered that growing IMTA species in the increased nutrients from farmed fish (particularly nitrogen) would be similar to growing in sewage effluent. Others (who also had concerns about over-stocking) felt that IMTA could compromise the health and quality of wild marine products.

5.11.6 There were concerns about the potential economic effects on the fishing and shellfish farming sectors. These included displacement of existing fishing activities; decreased access to shellfish cultivation sites; "dumping" of (shellfish) product on the market, thereby driving down prices; and effects on brand, including those emphasising the wild nature of their products or sustainability, e.g. the Marine Stewardship Council awards. While supportive of IMTA in general, it was felt by one public body respondent that this policy would benefit from further clarification, in particular the definition of IMTA with respect to spatial versus ecological considerations. Their view was that multi-trophic integration may be capable of being achieved in biological/ecological terms within a discrete biological area without seaweed/finfish cultivation systems being immediately adjacent.

Comments specific to policy 8

5.11.7 Several respondents suggested amendments to the wording of Policy 8. One noted that IMTA should only be supported if it conforms to the development plan (assuming that planning permission is the chosen consenting mechanism). Another suggested that IMTA should be restricted to shellfish waters, so that developers have certainty about ambient water quality.

5.11.8 One respondent suggested that, to ensure sustainability of the approach, the algae arising from IMTA should not be seen merely as a sink for finfish farming nutrients, but should have a purpose after harvesting. Preference could therefore be given in the authorisation process to proposals which include a beneficial and sustainable use for the seaweed. Another cautioned that, in the case of sea urchin production, care must be exercised to ensure that over-grazing of seaweed (by sea urchins) does not occur. It was also proposed that the SPS should require that IMTA-scale cultivation undergo environmental impact assessment, including the consideration of cumulative impacts.

Comments specific to Policy 9

5.11.9 Policy 9 reiterates existing policy (included in Scottish Planning Policy [6] and the draft National Marine Plan) and several respondents questioned the basis for this existing policy. These comments are included in Section 9 of this report.

5.11.10 Several respondents questioned the need for this policy, and whether the SPS needed to reaffirm existing policy through policy 9, noting that there are existing policies in place to limit the spatial distribution of finfish aquaculture and that, if finfish aquaculture is not supported on the north and east coasts, this effectively rules out finfish as one of the species that can be considered as part of IMTA in these areas.

5.11.11 One respondent was of the view that policy 9 should not assume that IMTA is appropriate for all existing finfish sites. Many sites are already constrained by space due to a requirement to retain access to anchorages and an increase in size would not be possible.

5.11.12 There were varying views regarding the areas to which the presumption against development should apply. One respondent opposed to this policy felt that the presumption against development should be extended to apply to areas where they felt the inshore fisheries required special protection, for example, Orkney. However, one respondent felt that if the west coast is to be compelled to have seaweed farms, then so too should the east coast.

5.11.13 Other views expressed included that IMTA should be considered in all areas as part of the expansion to an existing finfish farm.

5.11.14 It was also suggested that use of the term "Western Isles" in policy 9 should be more specifically defined as it currently confuses the Outer and Inner Hebrides. As there are issues specific to the Outer Hebrides, it was thought that defining these two distinct island groups would reduce confusion.

Policies 8 and 9 summary:

  • The majority of respondents supported IMTA, with some provisos such as the need for research. Those who opposed the policies did not agree with the IMTA concept.
  • Respondents raised a number of concerns about IMTA, including:
    • whether the increase in biological carrying capacity would result in an increase in the biomass of farmed finfish i.e. intensification
    • whether IMTA could achieve its stated objectives
    • whether IMTA is appropriate for all finfish aquaculture sites
    • potential economic disbenefits of IMTA
  • Suggestions for amendment were made, including conformity with the development plan, or restriction to shellfish waters.
  • Several respondents questioned the need for policy 9. There were also queries about whether the basis of the policy was still justified, and calls for amendment of the original policy, e.g. species of finfish; geographic application.

5.12 Question 5: Do you think that the size scales (shellfish (small), medium, and extensive), are appropriate?

Sector Yes No Not answered
1. Seaweed Industry 3 1
2. Aquaculture Industry 2
3. Fishing and Aquaculture Industry 1 3
4. Fishing Industry 2
5. Cultural Heritage/Archaeological 1 1
6. Recreational Sector 1
7. Voluntary Sector 1
8. Academic Sector 2 1
9. Public Body 3 5 4
10. Farming and Land Use 1
11. Individual 1 1
12. Withheld 1 1
Overall 14 12 10

5.12.1 There were mixed views across the sectors as to whether the size scales assumed for the SPS were appropriate. Approximately one-third (14) of respondents agreed, another third (12) disagreed and the remaining third did not answer the question. Of the 12 respondents who did not agree, around half were public bodies.

5.12.2 Many of the respondents who answered "no" to this question supported one or two of the size scales but not all three. These comments have been separated into general comments and those specific to each proposed size scale.

5.12.3 In addition, the text in the following paragraphs includes views provided in responses to other policies, policy 6 and policy 7 in particular.

General comments

5.12.4 Many of the respondents who were of the view that the proposed size scales are appropriate provided no rationale for this opinion. Several of the respondents felt that it was a logical approach, but with provisos: for example, several felt that there was little difference between "small" and "medium". One noted that there are potentially very large differences in area between the types, and therefore in their impacts. It was also thought by one respondent from the voluntary sector that the scales may be appropriate in themselves, but they are irrelevant unless the cumulative impacts of different sites can be assessed and properly managed; they felt that the draft SPS must clearly lay out how cumulative effects on the marine environment will be addressed, particularly effects on birds and mammals such as displacement, loss of habitat or species disturbance.

5.12.5 Of those who did not agree with the size classifications, concerns were expressed regarding the size scale categories and the degree of significant environmental effect that has been attributed to each (particularly shellfish scale). It was also felt that the arbitrary size of the categories has little meaning, and that to be economically viable, most seaweed farms would fall into the "extensive" category for which no policy is currently being proposed.

5.12.6 Many of the public bodies who did not support the proposed size limits cited the size limits used as their reasons. One felt that the general terminology is acceptable but that the size limits were inappropriate. Several noted that the SPS's use of "small" was actually quite large in practice and, on the basis of their experience, suggested that more appropriate size limits would be: small (shellfish) 1 - 20 x 200 m lines, medium 21 - 40 lines and extensive more than 40 lines. They also noted that seaweed cultivation undertaken for marine origin biofuels would be very large and could affect food production in the marine environment through conflict with, for example, the fishing and aquaculture industries.

5.12.7 Several suggested that scale be defined by area and/or biomass production rather than number and length of lines. For example, the use of "small", "medium" and "large" based on site area or overall footprint was thought to be less confusing and more flexible to allow for likely changes in technology as the industry develops. This was echoed by those who noted that different technologies are currently in development, and therefore considered that the use of long lines to define scale was not appropriate.

5.12.8 The consenting process was discussed by a few respondents and detailed comments are discussed in Section 6 of this report. In general, however, it was felt by one respondent that setting different scales of development that will be treated in different ways by different planning regimes would complicate the process unnecessarily.

5.12.9 Another respondent from the fishing sector felt that the question was redundant as, in their geographic area, any size of seaweed farm would conflict with the established fishery, causing displacement, gear conflict and fishing pressures in other areas.

5.12.10 One seaweed sector respondent stated that it is important that regulations and policy regarding infrastructure are in line with the ability of the industry to provide them, since they have financial implications that can be detrimental to small businesses.

Shellfish (small) scale

5.12.11 There were mixed views regarding the example provided for this size scale. Some respondents considered it to be reasonable. Others, from public bodies and the fishing industry, amongst others, were not supportive. They felt that the use of "shellfish" scale was misleading and inappropriate, as they did not consider it to be small scale development nor was the example given in the SPS representative of the current industry in Scotland. It was the view of one respondent that the "shellfish scale" proposed is actually "very extensive" compared to shellfish farms in operation. Another respondent suggested that the term "small" should be removed.

5.12.12 Concern was raised by several respondents that sites of this scale could have significant environmental effects, particularly with respect to designated sites, Priority Marine Features ( PMFs) and sensitive habitats and species. They suggested that it may be more appropriate to either reduce the scale to be more representative of the current shellfish industry, highlight that significant effects are possible and that mitigation measures may be required for shellfish scale, or provide clarity regarding the potential "regional" issues which should be taken into account when determining suitable locations for shellfish-scale development.

5.12.13 Another respondent noted that planning or consent applications must reflect the full area that will be affected; for example, mooring lines can add about 30% to the area of aquaculture sites.

Medium scale

5.12.14 One public body respondent noted, in commenting on Policy 7, that the definition of "medium scale" was given in "shellfish equivalents", and added that they considered this scale of development to be more transitional between small and extensive. They also suggested that regulatory consideration should address the type of equipment proposed rather than size/acreage of development. Another felt that the upper limit for medium size farms is rather small for an economically viable venture.

Extensive scale

5.12.15 Concerns were raised by a range of sectors regarding extensive or large scale cultivation, particularly about possible negative effects. Other concerns were raised regarding navigation, with one public body of the view that it would be extremely hazardous to place cultivation of this scale into inshore waters without major mitigation measures for the safety of navigation. The recreational sector also raised concerns regarding additional pressures on recreational yachting, which they felt was already under pressure from other developments. Several respondents felt that sites of this size should not proceed in advance of a detailed and extensive investigation of nutrient balances and the impacts on the marine ecosystem, or without greater consideration and consultation.

Question 5 summary:

  • Answers regarding the size scales used were evenly split: half thought they were appropriate and half did not.
  • Concerns were expressed regarding the size scale categories and the degree of significant environmental effect that has been attributed to each (particularly shellfish scale). Several respondents considered that shellfish (small) scale has more potential for significant environmental effects than was identified in the Consultation Document.
  • Many felt that the size limits quoted were inappropriate and suggested alternatives, e.g. small (shellfish) 1 - 20 x 200 m lines, medium 21 - 40 lines and extensive more than 40 lines.
  • Several suggested that scale be defined by area and/or biomass production rather than number and length of lines, which would facilitate future changes in equipment.
  • Concerns were raised about extensive or large-scale cultivation, particularly regarding navigation and additional pressures on other marine users such as yachting and fishing. Respondents called for additional research and consultation prior to progressing this scale of seaweed cultivation.

Contact

Back to top