Veterinary exemptions with respect to sea lice reporting: EIR release

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

Information requested

Information relating to Veterinary exemptions with respect to sea lice reporting and the requirements for salmonid aquaculture sites to report weekly sea lice numbers in accordance with The Fish Farming Businesses (Reporting) (Scotland) order 2020. Your request had a timescale of 1 January 2021 to 21 September 2022. The specific parts of your requests are replicated below within the section entitled ‘Response to your request’. Where any parts of your communication are handled out with the EIR process then this has been clearly specified.

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.


Parts of your request were clarified on 27 September 2022. Specifically we confirmed that that the terminology of ‘veterinary exceptions’ is not relevant to the reporting requirements. You agreed for the request to be handled in relation to ‘veterinary advice’ a term which is applicable to the reporting regime. In addition you agreed to revise the time scale from 1 January 2022 to 21 September 2022 following an explanation of the likely volume of the information held.

We have taken each part of your request in turn and provided a response to the same below.

1. Please provide any and all information provided by salmon feedlot operators associated with the failure (on each occasion) of a feedlot operator to report sea lice numbers on the basis of a "Veterinary Exemption"

I enclose a copy of some of the information you requested in an electronic format (as requested). This includes copies of email communications from stakeholders where a ‘no count’ has been submitted in relation to veterinary advice. Attachments to these communications have not been provided as this information is publicly available through Scotland’s Aquaculture website

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. If, however, you do not have internet access to obtain this information from the website(s) listed, then please contact me again and I will send you a paper copy.

An exception under regulation 11(2) of the EIRs (personal information) applies to some of the information requested because it is personal data of a third party and disclosing it would contravene the data protection principles in Article 5(1) of the General Data Protection Regulation and in section 34(1) of the Data Protection Act 2018. This exception is not subject to the 'public interest test', so we are not required to consider if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exception.


Parts 2, 3 and 4 of your request are answered out with the EIR process as these questions relate to policy application and interpretation as opposed to strict requests for recorded information.

2. Please provide the definition of information that must be provided by the operator in order to meet a threshold that it is permissible not to report sea lice numbers for a given week (how does the relevant regulator assure itself that indeed a Veterinary Exemption exists?

Under The Fish Farming Businesses (Reporting) (Scotland) Order 2020, which came in to force on 29 March 2021, the legal requirement is to report weekly count information or provide a reason for a no count in situations where a count is not undertaken. There is no requirement under the reporting order for any additional evidence to be submitted to justify the reason for no count. It should be noted that it would be an offence to report a reason which was false in a material particular.

Operationally, the Fish Health Inspectorate (FHI) may either receive information along with the submitted report or through discussions with APB staff. The FHI may also be aware of any ongoing husbandry operations or reported mortality incidents which may have resulted in no count being undertaken. The FHI can also request further information in situations where the reported information may have an impact on enforcement action.

3. Please provide the definition of a Veterinary Exemption?

As confirmed through clarification, the terminology of ‘veterinary exemption’ does not apply to the reporting requirements relating to sea lice. Veterinary advice is recognised as a justified reason for not providing a count and situations in which veterinary advice would apply include situations where:

  1. Direct veterinary advice has been made to the farmer to ensure the health and welfare requirements of the aquaculture animals;
  2. A prioritised husbandry measure which is conducted and directed by following the fish farm veterinary health and welfare plan, which has been developed with veterinary input, to ensure the health and welfare of aquaculture animals held at the farm site.

4. The Scottish Government states that sea lice on salmon feedlots are controlled with regard to the welfare of the salmon within. If a farmed salmon has more sea lice present than the upper limit prescribed in the policy linked above, to what extent is the salmon suffering harm and pain?

The policy driver behind the sea lice regulation within Scotland is to ensure that relevant fish farm sites have satisfactory measures in place to control parasites – sea lice, as defined within the Aquaculture and Fisheries (Scotland) Act 2007. Controlling and restricting lice to specific and low levels will have a positive effect on fish to help promote good health and welfare but this is an indirect benefit of the policy as opposed to its main driver.

Farmed fish welfare is the responsibility of the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) and in situations where there are welfare concerns the FHI share this information with APHA.


Part 5 of your request is answered in accordance with the EIRs.

5. How has the Scottish Government determined the permitted sea lice levels within salmon feedlots with reference to the welfare of the farmed salmon? The upper limit is 6.0 (as defined in the policy linked above) Please provide the information that was used to arrive at this limit.

Information concerning the establishment of the reporting and intervention levels relating to sea lice is publicly available following presentation in response to the ECCLR Committee inquiry into the environmental impacts of salmon farming. You may find the following references useful:

20180303_GD_to_Marine_Scotland.pdf (

Director of (

The reporting and intervention levels were modified in 2019 through consultation with stakeholders, including veterinarians. In June 2019 the reporting level was reduced from 3 to 2 and intervention level from 8 to 6, with respect to average adult female levels per fish. As set out in the meeting of the Scottish Parliament, Sustainable Aquaculture statement (link below).

Meeting of the Parliament: 05/06/2019 | Scottish Parliament Website

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Central Enquiry Unit
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The Scottish Government
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