After section 17

Part of Aquaculture and Fisheries (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3 – in the Scottish Parliament at 3:15 pm on 1st March 2007.

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Photo of Ross Finnie Ross Finnie Liberal Democrat 3:15 pm, 1st March 2007

I do not disagree with Jamie McGrigor's point that Gyrodactylus salaris is an extremely important disease to deal with, and the Executive has no difficulty in agreeing that its potential impact is serious. Therefore, I do not necessarily disagree with Richard Lochhead, either. However, my concern is that although Jamie McGrigor and Richard Lochhead highlighted the disease's importance and the need to be alert to it, neither of them established whether the risk is high or how the disease is most likely to be transmitted.

The expert reports to which Jamie McGrigor was keen to refer in relation to the disease's importance make it clear that experts and scientists have assessed as "extremely low" the risk of Gyrodactylus salaris entering the United Kingdom via fishing and boating equipment. Of relevance to that assessment is the knowledge that where the disease has occurred in Norway, equipment has never been implicated in the parasite's transmission between rivers. I and the Executive take seriously this extremely important matter, but transmission has not occurred by the means that amendment 1 or amendment 1A suggests. We must ensure that people who engage in fishing are as aware as everybody else is of the high risk.

Amendment 1 is not particularly workable. Often, points of entry from infected areas are not staffed by customs officials and, when they are, it is impractical to check every passenger. More important, the veracity of any declaration—if one were given—could not be established. That view is shared by HM Revenue and Customs, which was approached about the matter, and by the salmon angling representatives on the Gyrodactylus salaris task force that we established to develop our contingency plan.

Our preferred approach is to raise the ante by making all those who engage in relevant activity far more aware of the potential risks that are attached to the disease and of the considerable impact that any outbreak would have on Scotland's economy. Therefore, we have arranged a campaign, to which we are devoting additional resources. We are engaging with all people who come to Scotland and who book holidays here to advise and inform them of the danger that is associated with their bringing in the disease.