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Legal insights & industry updates

| 1 minute read

Increased aquaculture regulatory role for SEPA

As part of the Scottish Government's response to a report compiled by the Salmon Interactions Working Group (SIWG) in May 2020, it has been announced that the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) is set to take on the role of lead regulator in respect of certain key aspects of aquaculture regulation.     

Among other matters, the SIWG report (which made over 40 recommendations in total), called for reform of Scotland's finfish regulatory regime, noting that change was required in order to ensure Scotland was comparable with the highest international and domestic regulatory standards.  The clear importance of aquaculture to Scotland's economy was made clear in the Ministerial Foreword to the Scottish Governments response, which noted that aquaculture and its wider supply chain alone contributed £880 million Gross Value Added (GVA) and supported 11,700 jobs and livelihoods in Scotland in 2018.    

One of the SIWG's primary concerns has been on the potential harm to wild salmon from sea lice (a parasitic crustacean that fish farms in particular continue to tackle on a day-to-day basis).  Sea lice are estimated to be far more prevalent in fish farms than in wild fish, and if not adequately prevented and managed, sea lice can make produce unmarketable. In light of this, the aquaculture industry utilises a variety of prevention and treatment methods (ranging from organic to chemical-based solutions), in order to ensure products are marketable.   

In their response to the SIWG report, and in particular to calls for a single lead body being assigned responsibility on regulatory matters, the Scottish Government noted that SEPA will become the lead body responsible for managing the risk to wild salmonids from sea lice emitted from fish farms in Scotland. The increased regulatory role for SEPA comes on the back of the earlier transfer of responsibility of wellboat discharges from Marine Scotland to SEPA last year, which you can read about here.   

The new consent regime will also give the regulator powers to demand the relocation of farmed salmon biomass if its current location is seen as hazardous for wild fish. The government also announced funding of more than £650,000 to extend the salmon counter network, as part of a package of measures to support salmon conservation, providing information to help monitor salmon populations and report on their population status.


marine economy, aquaculture, regulation