Escapes from fish farms are a cause for concern. For fish farmers, they represent a loss of valuable assets (although to some extent this can be offset by insurance). For conservation and wild fish interests, escaped fish may: represent a disease hazard; occupy valuable habitat to the exclusion of wild fish; and have the potential to interbreed with wild fish, leading to dilution of genetic integrity.
To address these concerns, Marine Scotland established the The Improved Containment Working Group in 2009 following the launch of A Fresh Start - the renewed Strategic Framework for Scottish Aquaculture.
The group is chaired by Steve Bracken (Marine Harvest, Scotland) and includes membership from:
Key Achievements/Ongoing Activities for the group are :
- A key recommendation of the Improved Containment Working group was the need to introduce a Scottish Technical Standard which would apply to all of Scotland's marine and freshwater (including hatcheries) finfish farms covering nets, pens and mooring systems.
- Work on developing a draft standard is well underway - through the Scottish Aquaculture Research Forum (SARF) - in conjunction with industry. An initial draft Scottish Technical Standard including recommendations for further information required to develop the standard is being finalised by a project team and expected to be published in early February 2012. Legislation will be required to ensure that standard is adopted universally by the industry in Scotland. We expect that an appropriate lead-in period would be provided in order that the new standard can be reached as old equipment is replaced.
- Proposals in relation to the Technical Standard are highlighted in the Aquaculture and Fisheries Bill Consultation Paper published on the 12th of December 2011.
- In 2010, reported fish farm escapes were at their lowest since statutory reporting was introduced in 2002 and significantly down on the previous year.
Guidance and Training
- To help raise awareness on containment the Scottish Salmon Producers' Organisation supported by The Scottish Government carried out eight containment training courses for hatchery and farm staff in Orkney, Shetland, Western Isles, Highland and Argyll. Some of these training courses included input from pen, net and mooring manufacturers.
- The LANTRA National Occupational Standards (NOS) were updated in 2010 and now address containment across the standards.
- The ICWG has encouraged the development within the major farming companies to establish their own in-house containment training schemes. Ultimately we want this information to be shared with others in the industry.
- The training courses build on the recommendations of a recent Scottish Aquaculture Research Forum (SARF) report on causes of escapes. A copy of the report (SARF054-Assessment of Protocols and Development of Best Practice Contingency Guidance to Improve Stock Containment at Cage and Land-based Sites) is available on the SARF website at: Volume 1: Report; Volume 2: Report
- In addition, industry has produced freshwater containment guidance which is expected to be included in the next revision of the Code of Good Practice.
- The ICWG was tasked with looking at current position and future opportunities of closed containment and land-based facilities. Scottish Government awarded a contract for an 8 month research project into the impacts of open pen freshwater aquaculture including drip escapes. On completion (April 2012), the results of that study will be shared with stakeholders, with the policy implications then considered in light of the evidence.
Progress was reported to the Ministerial Group on Aquaculture (MGA) on 23 February 2012.
Legislation concerning the reporting of fish farm escapes has been in place since 2002 and requires that Scottish Ministers be notified in writing immediately where there is cause to suspect that there is significant risk an escape has occurred.
The Aquaculture & Fisheries (Scotland) Act 2007 came into force in August 2007 and makes relevant legal powers and provisions in relation to fish farms for containment and fish farm escapes. A Fish farming Businesses (Record-Keeping) (Scotland) Order 2008 details records and information fish farmers are required to maintain, for inspection, in relation to sealice and containment. Inspections for compliance with the Act commenced in November 2008.