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Consultation on Wild Salmon

Scotland is renowned worldwide for the quality of its rivers, lochs and seas. Despite this, in nearly 60% of salmon rivers across Scotland, including on the West Coast and Western Isles, salmon populations are in poor conservation status.

SEPA Consultation

SEPA, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, has launched a consultation on proposed wild salmon protection zones and a sea lice exposure threshold that applies in these zones.

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. The Scottish Government has identified 12 high-level pressures on the status of salmon stocks.

These include:

  • different pressures on river habitats, such as loss of trees/shade, man-made barriers to fish migration, impacts on river levels resulting from climate change
  • exploitation (recreational fishing & commercial sea fisheries)
  • predation
  • sea lice and disease
  • escapes
  • invasive non-native species (including signal crayfish in Scotland).

Sea lice from marine finfish farms remains a potentially significant pressure with scientific evidence being clear that sea lice from open-net pen finfish farms in Scotland can pose a significant risk to wild salmon populations.

The proposals will focus initially on implementing the proposed framework to protect wild salmon populations against harmful increases in sea lice concentrations.

SEPA is the lead body responsible for managing the risk to wild salmonids from sea lice from marine finfish farms and SEPA’s 2019 introduction of a stronger revised regulatory regime and ambitious aquaculture sector plan.

The consultation is open till 14th March 2022, and can be found here: Proposals for a risk-based framework for managing interaction between sea lice from marine finfish farm developments and wild Atlantic salmon in Scotland

SEPA Vessel the Sir John Murray

Terry A’Hearn, Chief Executive of SEPA, said:

“Scotland is renowned worldwide for the quality of its rivers, lochs and seas. Despite this, in nearly 60% of salmon rivers across Scotland, including on the West Coast and Western Isles, salmon populations are in poor conservation status.  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.

“The protection of Scotland’s wild Atlantic salmon is a national priority which is why, following the Scottish Government confirming SEPA as the lead body responsible for managing the risk to wild salmonids from sea lice from marine finfish farms, and in line with stated priorities. 

“We believe the proposals are practical and outcome focused, with phased implementation.  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.”

For more information on the consultation, visit  www.sepa.org.uk/wildsalmon

To express an interesting in meeting the SEPA team (virtually or in person*) in January or February,  email  aquaculture.regulation@sepa.org.uk.

image credit Noel Donaldson

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