Scotland moves to protect wild salmon with protection zones, sea lice thresholds proposed
A consultation on proposed wild Atlantic salmon protection zones and a sea lice exposure threshold has been launched by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), which has stated that protecting the fish is a “national priority.”
According to SEPA Chief Executive Terry A’Hearn, salmon populations are in poor conservation status in nearly 60 percent of salmon rivers across Scotland, including on the country’s west coast and along its western isles.
“Whilst the causes of the poor conservation status of wild salmon stocks are complex and believed to be due to a range of different factors rather than a single cause, we know that sea lice from marine finfish farms can be a significant hazard,” he said.
The proposals, which are open to 14 March, 2022, will focus initially on implementing the proposed framework to protect wild salmon populations against harmful increases in sea lice concentrations. SEPA will do this by assessing the risk to wild salmon when determining applications for proposed new farms and for proposed increases in the number of fish farmed at existing farms. Permits for all existing farms that can contribute to infective-stage sea lice in wild salmon protection zones would be changed to include conditions that control factors determining the number of juvenile sea lice emanating from farms, and for farms’ operational information to be provided so that the number of juvenile lice hatching from lice on their fish can be calculated.
“We believe the proposals are practical and outcome focused, with phased implementation,” A’Hearn said. “Over the coming months, we look forward to meeting and hearing views from a broad range of stakeholders with an interest in wild salmon, from community and environmental groups to the aquaculture sector itself before taking a final view in 2022.”
SEPA said that its proposed initial focus reflects the Scottish government’s stated priority for a new framework that considers the risk to wild salmon from sea lice when consenting finfish farm developments. It is also necessary because more information is needed to enable an assessment of whether the operation of existing farms is resulting in a hazard to wild salmon populations, SEPA said.
Once the framework is established, SEPA will work to identify wild salmon protection zones where the densities of infective-stage lice resulting from the operation of existing farms poses a hazard to wild salmon populations. In such situations, it will work with the farm operators to enable them to identify the best means of achieving an appropriate reduction in infective-stage sea lice densities in the relevant wild salmon protection zone.
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