Reform of the aquaculture and wild fishing sectors is welcomed by the Rural Affairs Committee


Legislation which proposes changes to the management of the aquaculture and wild fishing sectors has today been welcomed by the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee. However, the Committee has warned that a number of amendments to the legislation are needed to make it fully fit for purpose.

The Committee is also concerned that its scrutiny of this issue was hindered by some of the more adversarial sections of the aquaculture and wild fisheries sectors. The Committee is calling on both sectors to set aside their differences and work more co-operatively, which is vital for the future of both industries. It is also calling on measures to ensure both sectors are more transparent.

Convener of the Committee Rob Gibson MSP said:

“The aquaculture and wild fisheries sectors are of critical importance to Scotland – not only in terms of their contribution to our economy but also to our environment. However, these sectors are clearly at logger-heads over a number of issues which has hindered our scrutiny of this Bill.

“Whilst the Committee does welcome this legislation, it is clear that it will need to be amended to ensure it is fully fit for purpose. Our Committee very much considers this the first step in ensuring the long term sustainability of the aquaculture industry and the wild fisheries sector.

“However, equally important as this legislation, is that the two sectors have a productive co-operative working relationship.  We issue a plea to both sides to try and set aside their differences and work together for the benefit of our people and our environment.”

The Committee has made the following recommendations in its stage one report on the legislation:

Part one: aquaculture

On escapes: 

  •  The Committee supports the provisions in the Bill which would enable samples to be taken from any fish farm in an effort to determine where an escape had originated so appropriate steps could be taken to prevent further escapes;  
  •  The Committee notes concerns raised by the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation which suggest that an escape could trigger sampling at every farm in Scotland, however the Committee is confident that this was not the policy intention of the Bill.

On seals: 

  • The Committee notes concerns raised about the number of seals which are being shot as part of wider predator control. 
  • The Committee acknowledges that seal scarers may be a pest deterrent option for fish farms but should be as humane as possible.

On sea lice:

  •  The Committee notes that data on sea lice is currently required to be collected on a farm by farm basis but that there is currently no requirement for data to be routinely placed in the public domain;
  • The Committee notes the call for such data to be published, to increase transparency within the aquaculture industry and is still considering this issue;
  • The Committee notes that the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation is to increase the number of areas which data is collated from however the Committee would like to see data on this collated for each Farm Management Agreement.

Part two: Salmon fisheries

  •  The Committee was encouraged to learn that against a backdrop of long term decline the number of salmon returning to Scottish rivers is stabilising, however, sea trout stocks seem to be at greater threat.

On the governance of district salmon fishery boards: 

  • The Committee considers provisions outlined in the Bill to be an important and necessary step to improving the accountability and transparency of District Salmon Fishery Board activities; • The
  • Committee is content that the complaints procedure provisions in the Bill are proportionate and will assist District Salmon Fishery Boards in improving overall transparency and accountability; 
  • The Committee believes that it is important for board members to declare financial interests in order to improve transparency and accountability.

Carcass tagging :

  •  The Committee supports the introduction of a carcass tagging scheme and believes that tags should be individually numbered.

Salmon netting – close times and days at sea:

  •  The Committee appreciates the difficulties netsmen can encounter at trying to adhere to weekly close times in challenging weather conditions; 
  •  In acknowledging the need to close times for conservation and stocking reasons, it is evident to the Committee that a degree of flexibility is required. 
  •  However, the Committee is not persuaded that replacing the current close times with a days at sea allocation would provide an acceptable solution to this issue.

Salmon netting – conflict resolution:

  • The Committee was disappointed to hear about the breakdown in the relationship between netsmen and Esk District Salmon Fishery Board.
  • The Committee asks the Scottish Government to include in its response to this report how it intends to ensure better and more transparent conflict resolution within District Salmon Fishery Boards.
  • The Committee sympathises with any situation whereby a business is making financial contributions to fund a management body which it perceives may curtail the operations of that business.

Part four: shellfish

Protection of shellfish waters:

  • The Committee believes a notification system to alert shellfish growers of significant pollution issues would be of great benefit to the industry and asks the Scottish Government to establish this.

Cockle fishing:

  • The Committee supports the principle of the Scottish Government’s suggested amendment to strengthen the law in terms of illegal cockle fishing. The Committee believes that this is a significant problem, particularly in the Solway, and that the law as it stands does not give the police sufficient powers to deal effectively with the issue;
  • However, this amendment will not solve the issue of illegal shellfishing and suggests the Government continues to work closely with all relevant agencies to develop proposals to tackle this issue.


The Aquaculture and Fisheries (Scotland) Bill was introduced into the Scottish Parliament in October 2012. This Report concludes the Committee’s stage one scrutiny of the Bill.

Read the report

Read the report in full

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