20 February 2003

(S1O-6468) Aquaculture

3. Tavish Scott (Shetland) (LD): To ask the Scottish Executive when it last met representatives of the aquaculture industry and what matters were discussed. (S1O-6468)

The Deputy Minister for Environment and Rural Development (Allan Wilson): The Scottish Executive meets regularly with representatives of the aquaculture industry to discuss a wide range of issues. The last meeting took place on Monday, when the working group, which I chair, discussed the strategic framework for aquaculture.

Tavish Scott: I understand that the minister plans to publish the framework document in March. Will he confirm that he is looking at two specific areas, namely, a one-stop-shop approach for the industry for making applications and the need to bear down on costs as a result of the incredibly intense competitive pressures that exist, given the nature of salmon farming at the moment?

Allan Wilson: I confirm that both matters will be the subject of future consideration by the industry, the regulators and all the public bodies that are associated with it. On Monday, the working group agreed that in developing the framework, the issue of a one-stop shop should be revisited in around two years, after the transfer of planning powers to local authorities has been implemented. We are also in the process of developing research into costs to the industry and comparing costs and regulatory and other burdens with those in competitor countries.

Robin Harper (Lothians) (Green): Does the minister agree that, in the document in question, the time scales for the revision of locational guidelines are unacceptably long?

Allan Wilson: The strategic working group considered time scales, to which we are making a number of amendments. The locational guidelines are reviewed approximately every 18 months and have recently been reviewed. In the circumstances, I do not consider an 18-month time scale for further review to be unreasonable.

Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): Does the minister recall that last year, the Danes caught 1.5 million tonnes in their pernicious industrial fishery and that a significant part of that catch was for the preparation of food for aquaculture? While I recognise that the feed sustainability study is already under way, will he tell us what progress is being made to develop alternative supplies of food so that white fish in the North sea do not starve and neither do our farmed fish?

Allan Wilson: We debated that matter at the most recent meeting of the Transport and the Environment Committee. It is critical that the sustainability of feed stocks for acquaculture expands as we hope it will. The problem with the science to date is that scientists have been unable to replicate the omega oils that make salmon in particular so nutritious. Research and development is under way at a global level to address such problems so that sustainable feed stocks from renewable sources can replace the wild stocks that are currently used.

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