Minister promises to take action to reform the aquaculture regime

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Rural Affairs Minister Mairi Gougeon has promised to personally oversee the drafting of a new regulatory regime for aquaculture in Scotland.

Speaking at the opening of the Aquaculture UK show in Aviemore, Scottish Highlands, she announced that a Ministerial Strategy Forum on Aquaculture will present the recommendations made by Professor Russell Griggs OBE during the first stage of the regulatory review of aquaculture by the Scottish Government.
The policy forum, she said, will be tasked with ensuring an equal progression of the government’s commitments to bring reforms to a system that the independent Griggs report, published, described as “misfit for purpose”.
Gougeon added, “In order to keep pace with streamlining the consent system, I have directed my officials to set up a small consent working group to support the work of the forum.”
She also said she had asked her officials to extend the marine license renewal period for fish and shellfish farms from six to 25 years, bringing it in line with the Crown Estate Scotland Lease cycle.
The marine license only deals with navigation issues, Gougeon stressed, and the change is intended to reduce the burden on both Marine Scotland and the industry, without affecting environmental or other outcomes.
The Scottish Government’s vision for sustainable aquaculture is due to be published by the end of the year. It is expected to place more emphasis on environmental protection and community benefits. The policy framework will encompass finfish, shellfish and seaweed aquaculture in Scotland
A blue economy action plan will be released later this year, outlining how the blue economy vision will be implemented.
In addition, the Scottish Scientific Advisory Council has also been asked to consider the scientific recommendations of the review to ensure that changes to the sector support its sustainable development and tackle environmental challenges.
Referring to Scottish Parliament committee inquiries into salmon farming in Scotland, Gougeon said: “I think it is important to recognize the significant progress that has been made since then through the Salmon Interactions Task Force and the recent consultation on the SEPA sea lice risk assessment framework for wild salmon. ”
She said: “I am a champion of the aquaculture sector in Scotland – it is a significant contributor to our rural and island economies, providing well-paying jobs in some of Scotland’s most fragile communities.
“The aquaculture sector is a vital part of our economy in Scotland.”
Tavish Scott, Chief Executive of Salmon Scotland, said: “We are very pleased that the Government recognizes that the regulatory regime is not fit for purpose and needs to change.
“Mairi Gougeon’s personal commitment to chairing a strategic forum is a very strong sign of her leadership in this regard, and government officials and regulators can be in no doubt as to the direction of the journey.
“Professor Griggs has recommended that a reformed regulatory framework be delivered within 12 months and the strong message from Aviemore is that we all need to work together to achieve this vision.”
He added: “The salmon sector in Scotland will work constructively with government and regulators to deliver effective and efficient results on social, economic and environmental objectives, supporting thousands of rural jobs, generating millions pounds for the Scottish economy and raising one of the most nutritious produce we can eat.

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