Aquaculture and Fisheries (Scotland) Bill

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 4:24 pm on 1st March 2007.

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Photo of Ross Finnie Ross Finnie Liberal Democrat 4:24 pm, 1st March 2007

In accordance with rule 9.11 of the standing orders, I advise the Parliament that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the Aquaculture and Fisheries (Scotland) Bill, has consented to place her prerogative and interests, so far as they are affected by the bill, at the disposal of the Parliament for the purposes of the bill.

The sustainable development of aquaculture and freshwater fisheries in Scotland was the principal reason for introducing the bill, which provides new powers to help to realise the vision of the strategic framework for Scottish aquaculture and lays the foundations for the forthcoming strategic framework for freshwater fisheries.

This has been a collaborative bill, drawn up with the close and active involvement and participation of stakeholders. The welcoming reaction to the bill as it progressed through its parliamentary stages is testament to the open and inclusive approach that we adopted.

On aquaculture, the bill provides powers to tackle two important and long-standing problems of public and international concern: sea lice and escapes of fish from fish farms. The bill takes a pragmatic approach, acting as a backstop to the fish farming industry's code of good practice. It strikes the right balance on the degree of regulation. I believe that that legislative underpinning will increase public confidence in the industry's code by ensuring that all fish farm operators have to meet certain agreed standards.

On freshwater fisheries, the bill puts in place measures to deal with the parasite Gyrodactylus salaris, should it ever come to Scotland. We all of course agree that it would be infinitely preferable to keep the parasite out, as we have discussed. I reassure Parliament that we will be putting every effort into our preferred approach of a high-profile, focused education and awareness campaign. The new phase begins on Monday.

The bill introduces important reforms for freshwater fisheries, which will help to ensure a balance between the conservation of freshwater fisheries and responsible access to fishing. Not all the measures have been universally welcomed, as the reaction to the prohibition on the use of live vertebrates as bait illustrates. However, I am heartened that Parliament has recognised the importance of the precautionary principle in this case.

The bill makes important improvements in the regulation of sea fisheries, including the introduction of administrative penalties for certain sea fisheries offences. Although the concept of fixed penalties as a voluntary alternative to court proceedings is not new, it is an innovative development in sea fisheries, where legislation can be highly complex and very technical in nature. Stakeholders welcome the fact that the Executive is bringing in those measures.

For the first time ever, we are introducing a discretionary power to make payments for fish that have been destroyed by measures taken to control fish diseases. That explicit reassurance on the issue of fish disease underlines the Executive's commitment to supporting the aquaculture sector in Scotland.

The bill is widely recognised to have cross-party and wide stakeholder support and I believe that it will make a real difference.

I move,

That the Parliament agrees that the Aquaculture and Fisheries (Scotland) Bill be passed.