A 2022 review found the current process for aquaculture consenting and licensing in Scotland to be complex, lacking coordination, and in need of improvement.
SalMar-backed Scottish Sea Farms has become the first of two salmon producers to submit a planning notification, marking the commencement of a trial for a more streamlined farm consenting process in Scotland.
A consenting process, refers to the formal procedure and approval required to obtain permission from relevant authorities to carry out specific activities, such as establishing or expanding fish farming operations. It involves seeking official approval for the proposed plans, ensuring that they comply with regulations, environmental standards, and local requirements, before the activities can proceed legally.
This initiative follows an independent review conducted in 2022 by regulatory expert Professor Russel Griggs, commissioned by Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon. The review found the current process for aquaculture consenting and licensing in Scotland to be complex, lacking coordination, and in need of improvement.
A Consenting Task Group, formed by the Scottish Aquaculture Council to implement Professor Griggs’ recommendations, has been working on devising a more coordinated approach. Shetland Islands Council and Highland Council are the first to pilot these proposed changes.
In Shetland, Scottish Sea Farms is planning to apply for the consolidation of four existing farming consents into one expanded offshore farm at Fish Holm, according to a release from the company on Thursday.
Enhancing fish health and welfare
This move is part of a strategy aimed at streamlining the companies operations into fewer farms located in optimal growth areas, with the aim of enhancing fish health and welfare.
Anne Anderson, Head of Sustainability at Scottish Sea Farms, explained, “This new, more coordinated approach is anticipated to take three to four months and pave the way for a swifter decision once the formal application has been submitted.”
Community engagement is a focal point of the revised licensing and consenting process. Scottish Sea Farms has been in discussions with Shetland Island Council, community councils, and other marine stakeholders. Additionally, two consultation events are scheduled for the wider community:
Wednesday, February 21, 2024, 3pm to 7pm at Voe Public Hall
Thursday, April 4, 2024, 3pm to 7pm at Vidlin Hall.
Scope for further improvement
Anderson added, “We’re keen to talk local communities through our proposal, which is to consolidate four separate consents into one farm of 6,000 tons, which is a modest increase of 764 tonnes overall.”
Mowi, another salmon producer, will also participate in trialling the new licensing and consenting process, submitting their planning notification to Highland Council. Following the completion of both trials, the Consenting Task Group will conduct a comprehensive review to assess its success at each stage.
Anne Anderson stated, “The Group will be looking to identify any scope for further improvement, informed by feedback from all key stakeholders, including communities, ahead of rolling out the new, coordinated approach to other local authorities.”